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Guernica’s Book of the Month: February

Under My SkinFebruary is Black History Month and, despite the brief amount of time which it is officially afforded, it urges us to keep Black history and racial equality on our minds throughout the whole year.

Furthermore, it brings Valentine’s Day. And while many refuse to celebrate the holiday, which has been over saturated with commercialism, advertising, and an artificiality which suggests that love is to be celebrated only once a year, February 14th can also be recognized for what it should represent— a reminder to cherish true, limitless love in all its forms on every day of the year.

Orville Lloyd Douglas’ Under My Skin gives centre stage to the issues on which both Black History Month and Valentine’s Day place an emphasis, by illustrating the struggle of those who lack the support of their communities in embracing central parts of their identities.

The poems in the collection not only question the very boundaries that pose a threat to homosexual love and to racial equality, but actively labour to break them down. Douglas makes a point to address the daily challenges that young black men encounter due to race, and to oppose them through reason. He addresses not only the bias of external communities, but also the pressures placed on them by the African-American community— to act, feel, be a way that fits within the norms associated with their physical description. In “Brother”, Douglas writes: “Do I got to read Malcolm X to be like you?/ Wear the African cloth/ Speak about Nigeria, Botswana and Niger?”

The poems in the collection also take a stand for Canada’s queer community, and the Black queer community in particular which, Douglas shows, remains largely invisible and underrepresented. In “The Terror Within Us”, the speaker portrays a vivid depiction of his society’s intolerance towards homosexual love. The first line of the poem reads: “I committed a crime worthy of murder,” from the outset voicing a daring confrontation, and leaving nothing invisible.

Though Black History Month and Valentine’s Day are limited to a few days of the year, the significance that they carry should resonate for far longer. Under My Skin is an active portrayal and reminder of the importance of keeping racial and gender equality at the forefront of our minds.

This month, fall in love. With equality. With history. With humanity.
With the poems in Under My Skin. We already have.

Under My Skin is available for purchase on the Guernica Editions website:

Posted in Commentaries, Poetry.

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