GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA reviewed by Diana Whitney for Kenyon Review
From the review—
Gander asserts her place as a writer of history and a visionary of future empowerment: “I’m the cartographer of how it’s all supposed to be…” By unearthing memory that is personal, cultural, and historical, she enacts a search for meaning and creates a new language for a lost adolescence, fueled by the need to articulate the self, to be fully seen and known. There is potency in the telling and re-telling, affirmed in the penultimate poem, “We Got . . .” Speaking in first-person plural, Gander insists, “It’s the stories that make us shine.” The collective female voice holds power and magic: “We be the alchemists . . . / fashioning ourselves from the wreckage of memory.”
What does it mean to move away from the shadow of one’s mother, parents, or family in order to come into being within this world? As collective memory within the Black diaspora has been ruptured, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA time travels by creating and recapturing memory from a fractured past to survive in the present and envision a future. In her first full-length collection GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA:Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues, Shanta Lee Gander navigates between formal and vernacular styles to introduce the reader to a myriad of subjects such as scientific facts that link butterflies to female sexuality and vulnerability; whispers of classical Greek myth; H.P. Lovecraft’s fantastical creature, Cthulhu; and the traces of African mythmaking and telling. Beneath the intensity, longing, seeking, wondering, and the ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ voice that sometimes tussles with sadness, there is a movement of sass and a will that refuses to say that it has been broken. Gander leaves a door ajar in this ongoing conversation of the Black female body that walks the spaces of the individual within a collective; the tensions between inherited and hidden narratives; and the present within a history and future that is still being imagined.