In the Chronicles of an Immigrant Mother is a poetry collection recounting Jane Mbaratha-Rurigi’s often-difficult experiences as a Nigerian who has relocated to the United States. Through these poems, she contemplates the disappointments and joys that derived from starting over in a place she came to understand as a “leveling ground” more than the golden “land of opportunity” of which she once dreamed. Despite the realities that she confronted, her poems remain positive, upbeat, and often thankful.
From the start, in the poems “It Is Poetry.com” and “Why I Love Poetry,” the poet discusses how discovering poetry has changed her interactions with the world. These poems, indicative of the other poems in this collection, speak directly to the reader, telling them all that the author wants others to know.
Images and descriptive language are rare, although the most memorable poems make use of both. In “My Baby at 39,” the poet recounts specifics, such as “Who can shout ‘I love you’ / from the top of the apartment complex.” Similar specifics also enliven the poem “The Agony of the Mother,” in which Mbaratha-Rurigi writes, “She might be the Princess of Wales or the first lady. / She might be the Queen of New England or / The Duchess of New York. / The agony of a mother is mothering.”
A straightforward voice and adherence to literal (rather than figurative) language make this an accessible collection to those who do not frequently read poetry. Readers interested in the insights of an immigrant woman in the United States may find comfort in Mbaratha-Rurigi’s poems.
Also available in hardcover.