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Lions Don't Eat Us

Overview

The winner of the 2005 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, Lions Don't Eat Us introduces a fierce and wise new voice

There's nothing to be afraid of.

Don't ever let boys kiss you.

Be nice. One day you'll get married.

Keep your legs closed. Dance.

—from "Grandmother Said"

In one of Aesop's Fables, the Roman slave Androcles befriends the emperor's lion ...

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Overview

The winner of the 2005 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, Lions Don't Eat Us introduces a fierce and wise new voice

There's nothing to be afraid of.

Don't ever let boys kiss you.

Be nice. One day you'll get married.

Keep your legs closed. Dance.

—from "Grandmother Said"

In one of Aesop's Fables, the Roman slave Androcles befriends the emperor's lion prior to his trial and thereby survives certain death in the arena. Constance Quarterman Bridges's father tells this story to his children and says, "My Babies, we're special people, lions don't eat us." In this remarkable debut collection, Bridges chronicles her ancestry—part born out of slavery, part descended from Cherokee heritage—from her great-grandparents "jumping over the broom" in Civil War Virginia to her father's journey in the Great Migration northward in 1916. The result is an unequivocally American story.

Lions Don't Eat Us is the 2005 winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, given to the best first collection by an African-American poet.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"These poems radiate a tough-minded herstory/history that demands that we investigate, listen to, dance within, and defend their beauty." —Sonia Sanchez
Joel Brouwer
Bridges's poems are sometimes marred by stock phrases and ideas: a stoked cookstove "glows red like a setting sun"; a Togolese woman Bridges sees from a bus window is imagined to be gesturing "in universal language. / I love you. Welcome home!" But any such complaints are more than offset by the captivating narratives and hard-earned insights to be found in this elegantly constructed collection.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
"We're special people, lions don't eat us," said Bridges's father while relating Aesop's fable about Androcles and the lion to his young daughter. Bridges's poems, which began flowing from her pen after she retired from the U.S. Treasury Department in the late Eighties, do indeed seem to carry a special charm. And they're brawny as any lion. Bridges can write evocatively-"Ahead northern unburned ground,/ candescent light, smoke hiss, smolder./ Combustion"-but she's not out to draw pretty pictures; her words are in the service of a tougher vision. Like African American mothers and daughters everywhere, who "share/ time; make braids the living chains, genetic memories," she braids together the memories that add up to the African American experience: the brutality of slavery, the migration north, Ashanti beliefs still recalled, the servant, "face/ironed smooth with learned ancestral lessons," who is advised by her mistress that the Klan will be riding that night. Justly a Cave Canem winner as best first collection by an African American, this book is highly recommended for contemporary collections.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School
Bridges opens the family scrapbook, searches the "licorice-colored pages," probes deeply into the lives of the "people folded away like paper dolls," and, with considerable eloquence and dignity, explores the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of four generations of the "family who waited for me in the grape-leaf green album." Employing simple and fresh language, the poems consistently get to the core of the many relationships among these family members of African and Native American descent. Readers will find a truly American story of great pain and despair, but one not lacking in reward and pleasure. Some of these people are weak, but more are strong. Some are self-centered, but more are family-oriented. And most join rather than merely watch the figurative (and literal) Dance. Bridges writes that Grandma Ellen "wore her quietness/like a Sunday bonnet," that she lived in a South "dredged in slavery/and inhabited by quiet women both/black and white who wore shells of gentility," and yet Ellen "spoke against slavery, had opinions/in a time when women were seen/and not heard." Readers learn that the Easter-time marriage of "pale Albert" and "chocolate Rhoda" was "full of colored eggs/sons, daughters, my grandfather Austin." With this testimonial to the lives of her predecessors, Bridges not only gives them a lasting voice, but also probes the character of a particular time and place, as well as universal concerns of all people. This superb, accessible collection deserves a wide audience.
—Robert SaundersonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974541
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 9/19/2006
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 8.89 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

CONSTANCE QUARTERMAN BRIDGES retired from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1987. She has won two fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

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