Book Review: The Kingdom and After


Megan Fernandes, 78 pgs, Tightrope Books, $19.95 

This debut collection by Megan Fernandes takes the reader on a surreal post-colonial journey where she unearths vivid images of the many people she encounters, witnesses, or dreams about.

In the standout poem “Queens”, she discusses a visit to Mumbai, where she meets the Hijra — a word which refers to a tradition of transgender women in India. I was able to envision the outstretched hands of Hijra as they beckon her into their corners with promises of intrigue or sensuality. Fernandes writes, “I say, Leave me. I know what you do with little boys behind blue-rutted buses.” Despite the played-up magic and exoticism, there are difficult complexities to this encounter swirling together in a moment of high tension. In its enactment or its utterance, this moment, real or imagined, addresses gender, race, colonialism, power, and beauty all at once.

Fernandes’ varied collection must be read as such, as the stylistic and emotional motions ebb and swell to shape a narrative, fractured but intuitively legible, particularly for me as a diasporic reader. Through skillful metaphors, sometimes unnerving imagery, and tentative literary antidotes to political pain, Fernandes creates moments of bliss throughout the complicated and sticky journey upon which she embarks. She’s taken time to imagine new ways of navigating broken and layered terrains, and I would highly recommend it. (Naomi B)