“One of the most important books of poetry to come along in years.” —Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR
Named a Best Book of 2019 by NPR and Publishers Weekly, Hybrida is a stirring and confident examination of mixed-race identity, violence, and history skillfully rendered through the lens of motherhood. In an agile blend of zuihitsu, ghazal, mosaic poems, and lyric essays, Tina Chang “evokes the bottomless love and terror of motherhood as she describes raising her mixed-race son” (New York Times). Ambitious and revelatory, Hybrida establishes Chang as one of the most vital voices of her generation.
The title of Chang's third collection signals a fusion of disparate elements, a hybrid that's been seemingly feminized. This m lange appears across an impressive array of forms: prose poems, ghazals, responses to artworks (by Alexandria Smith and Kara Walker, for example), the several-page "Bitch" and "Creation Myth," as well as verse that explores Chang's personal history. Primarily, though, this is a book about the speaker's son: her love for him, and how she and he negotiate his blackness in the world. In the opening poem, "He, Pronoun," she writes: "I have a right to fear for him,// though I have no right to claim his color./ His blackness is his to own and what will// my mouth say of that sweetness." The poem closes on the image of her son in her lap, a quotidian moment, but they "watch the door." With more urgency than a news article could achieve, Chang conveys the fear and rage at the reality that the color of her son's skin will mean she is unable to keep him safe. The title poem, subtitled "a zuihitsu," is a collage of questions and observations about identity, which at its end suggests hope for the future: "Wilderness/ of the mind. But it's changing."