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  • Writer's pictureVincent Pruis

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

Aja Monet's poetry collection made me even more grateful for my own mother.

When I was growing up, my parents traveled often, especially my mother. There always seemed to be conferences scheduled over Halloween & Valentine’s Day, & she missed many of my concerts & soccer games. So, like many travel-weary parents, she turned to the apology that is gift giving. I got rocks from Morocco, a shawl from Spain, Egyptian perfume…but over the years my mother learned that I preferred the stories that came with the gifts to the objects themselves. Gifts made a revised reappearance, though, when I chose my college major. I study (and write) poetry, a genre my parents have never cared for & do not understand. Cue gifts.

To apologize for loving my poetry despite having no idea how to appreciate it, my mom buys me books of poems, &, for someone who claims to have no knowledge of good poetry, she has incredible taste in the books she buys.

Her latest gift to me is a collection by Aja Monet entitled My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter. This book is an ode to the female voice, to the women who have “not yet been taught / to dim.” Monet is not only a poet, but also an activist, performer, & songwriter. Each of these identities rages through in her poetry as she voices the unvoiced & challenges her readers: “what of my speaking is not poetry / if I make this language sing.” Her work uplifts mothers & sisters, all doing their part to fight for a better world. At the same time, her work has also reminded me of my own calling as a poet, & of how much I appreciate the warrior who is my own mother. A woman who fought her way to the top of a male-dominated industry, traveled to strange countries on her own, & always uplifts and supports me, no matter how far I am from her physically, or how far I am from the work she understands.

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