These Pearls Are Real Book Review

by Astrid Ferguson

These Pearls Are Real Synopsis:

Carla M. Cherry’s fourth poetry collection is about love and liberation. This medley of poems exalts the joys of childhood, self-acceptance, falling in love, and grapples with gun violence, cultural appropriation, police brutality, and the neglect of the mentally ill. Her epic poem, “A Daughter Speaks”, is a homage to the courage of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Therese Patricia Okoumou, and the ordinary people across various identities who give us hope for a brighter future. These Pearls Are Real is like a bouquet of potpourri. May you find rejuvenation within its cover.

First Impression:

These Pearls Are Real by Carla M. Cherry is a collection of poems and carefully crafted musings that meets the reader as the stanzas break up. Now let me admit, this book was submitted to me via the Can We Discuss online poetry book club to be considered for an honest review in exchange for a free paperback copy. This did not alter or persuade me in any way from writing an honest review. Now that we got that out the way lets get on with the review, shall we?

At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect as these poems weren’t written in any particular order. It didn’t exactly tell one story, it told many. At a glance it seems joyous and lighthearted. After a good ten pages you feel sucked in but can’t explain which poem held you tighter. As Carla does an exceptional job at taking something so real and simple like making blueberry pie and transforming it into a lovers gift. She has a way of beginning with subtly and leading you into deeply conveyed feelings that sucker punches the gut.

With each turn of a page you meet a new era of being woman, dealing with social abnormalities, intense identity commentaries, and a judicial outcry for change. It was like a proclamation for dealing with life in stages. Taking a stroll through the neighborhood and meeting the messages at the spine of each pearl. These stories are not one to zoom through. It will require several reads, a few vocabulary searches, and some hums in between.

For the purposes of this review I will highlight a few of my favorite poems that left me resonating and conjuring a series of thoughts. So if you haven’t read it yet this is a warning that some spoilers are included in this review.


Complexity in Stories We Share:

These Pearls Are Real reminded me of the fallacy we have been taught by our parents and we continue to teach our children for generations to come. This whole concept of who they should fear while ignoring that the monster isn’t usually someone they don’t know. I know I could relate to this poem because I literally remembered myself telling my son, “Don’t go into anyone’s car you don’t know even if they have your favorite candy.” Acting like I wasn’t a victim to the man that was living in my home. No he wasn’t my father but he was supposed to act like it because that’s what a step parent(s) role is. I guess he had a different definition of what step parent meant, huh? Or maybe I was the one with the misconception of what step father meant. Either way this poem called out the fallacy “talking to strangers” as the primal worry for children is no longer a true statement.

False

We girls, my sister and I, were sheltered, safely touched—hugs, kisses on cheeks.

Saturday mornings, feet neatly tucked underneath thighs in front if the TV, singing the theme song, laughing at Fat Albert, Mushmouth, Dumb Donald and Weird Harold— “if you’re not careful, you might learn something before it’s done.”

Cosby Show, every Thursday night at 8. Parents, side-by-side with us on the sofa.

Daddy loved Cliff’s expensive patterned sweaters.

It was strangers that our parents worried about,

creeps that might lure us with candy/snatch us off the street.

Bragged Congressman Conyers brought us the King Holiday,

Congressional Black Caucus. Rapped along with Run DMC, the Fat Boys, Fruitvale Station, The Great Debaters, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the Spike documentary about Kalief Browder. Charlie Rose interviewed the greats: Raoul Peck to Charles Blow to Neil Degrasse Tyson. Lupita Nyong’o, Terry Crews, Jenny Lumet, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, showed us:

Beware those who entertain, inform, reassure, via television, radio, film;

those who employ, who rule.

It was the strangers our parents worried about,

not the limo that took her to his home instead of hers.

Commands: Drink this.

Swallow that.

Rape. Forced Fellatio. The penis/breast/butt groping.

Unwelcome hands on legs, through pants. Business done in his home.

Uninvited nudity, invitations to join his shower. Don’t tell, or else.

We must teach our daughters, our sons: enthusiastic consent, bodily autonomy, and:

Be unafraid to speak up, even though Roy Moore and his ilk are still in, Franken is out.

Let us demand prosecutors indict the rich/powerful as vigorously as the poor.

All this time,

It was the strangers that our parents worried about.

Most of the poems that spoke to me had to deal with motherhood and womanhood. There are many topics in this poetry book that could speak to many different life experiences, but I was in my emotion bag, OK? I sat back to think how often I found myself asking the following sets of questions. What if I could go back in time and ask all the mothers that sacrificed, swallowed themselves, gave up their names so I could become a better human being? How would those lesson plans begin? How could these recipes maintain the blend of sugar and spice when they used more rum than milk? The following poem was one that literally took the words out my mouth without me even knowing I was framing it for birthing sons.

Every May

Crescent moons underwhelm.

I gaze/gape

at full moons,

curved like my belly before

I bled/cried/thrust my son

into this giant blue ball

of joy and pain.


Had I a magic wand,

each Flower Moon,

I would conjure a Kind Reaper,

who would convene the spirits

of my many long-gone mothers.

Just to talk.

And finally the one poem that hit me like a pound of bricks because it was so ephing real. It brought full circle how hard it is to be a woman. How hard it is to be a black woman but most importantly, how hard it is to be a strong woman. There is so much pressure and scolding that happens that we don’t even notice how much we slouch. I know I have struggled with this because through it all, I was always required to find the answer. We as women always have to figure things out. We can be left behind unguarded and we have to figure out how to become a body guard, national guard, detective and much more for ourselves and our children. We spend so much time doing what is necessary that we forget to rub our knees from the agony of standing tall.

Hindsight

Stop slouching,

she’d scold.

Mother said I would end up with bad posture.

She taught me

to have pride

but

had I known

how much/how long

I’d need to be on my feet

fighting to be full

as a

Black human being,

woman,

mother,

teacher,

free from fear of badges,

brute force,

budget cuts,


I’d have spent every night

like the doctor said,

with rounded shoulders

pressed against the wall

neck straight as a lightning rod

and practiced

standing tall.

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See as women we are conditioned to care for everyone while forming a masked appearance that everything is great. We are not told that through transparency and vulnerability is how we get to keep ourselves. That our strengths is not in the roots of playing pretend. That was just a small part of performing scenes with Barbie and Ken. In the real world we will lose who we are and fight to find ourselves in the end. That is what I learned from These Pearls are Real. We are the real pearls in the depths of seas that are so profound and inconceivably unique that we have to hide inside an oysters shell. Being black is just an added bonus to why we are still associated with hopelessness.

What Worked:

All these poems played intricate parts in how the world becomes a more complicated place to maneuver as a human being. It’s like we can never catch a break huh? I mean when we think we are finally learning what it is to freely live life something else happens that keeps us in grips of pain. I am a very empathetic person and that is what I felt most in these poems, empathy. These poems were very well constructed and kept an intriguing flow throughout. The use of vocabulary that wasn’t overbearing but yet enlightening was something I appreciated about this collection of poems. You can tell Carla has a strong appreciation for language and humanity.

What Didn’t Work:

These Pearls Are Real wasn’t written in any particular order so I would often find myself bouncing back and forth between topics/emotions. So for instance the story would start with motherhood and then move into identity, womanhood, back to parenting, love, and somehow move into police brutality and violence in sporadic form. I think it would’ve been more beneficial and easier to interpret if it was written in a way like a pearl was being created. Starting with one topic and then bringing you full circle to keep you flowing with the poems. Instead of writing about each topic in a sporadic format. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the book cover. While it went with the overarching theme it didn’t scream pick me up. Which is disheartening because this collection of poetry is so deep and profound. Those few things in retrospect didn’t work for me as a reader.

Closing Thoughts:

I applaud Carla or Mrs. Cherry for carefully crafting each one of these poems. Overall this book was full of profound poetry that was thought provoking. Each poem invited a new version of the reader to sit with it. Something I didn’t highlight throughout this review that I silently appreciated, was some of the erotica poetry embedded within the pages. Girl I was like I think my nipples just got hard! Ima write this one down and save it in my saucy girl collection. ha-ha.

If you pick up a copy you will know what I mean (insert looking eyes emoji here). So go get your copy and start unpacking some of these topics because there are tons to unpack in These Pearls Are Real by Carla M. Cherry.

Giveaway:

To all my freeloaders, my bad. Y’all can holla at Carla for a free copy because as I stated previously this was sent to me for an honest review. Sigh! You guys are always looking for free stuff. Ha-ha! I kid but I’m being serious though. Don’t worry I am the same.

Now, tell me what did you enjoy most about this review? Have you read this book yet? If so, let me know in the comments I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you read this story and felt the same; my frien (read it with a Hispanic accent) let’s talk. I hate to feel like I’m the only one whose nipples got hard. Also, feel free to share with a friend who is a bit bookish and want some new poetry reads. Ok hasta la proxima my friends! Chao!

Astrid Ferguson