Bad Indian: Poems
Brick Mantel Books (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (1/2021)
“Bad Indian: Poems,” by J.C. Mehta, is the perfect companion piece to her coming-of-age novel, “You Look Something.” This collection of poems touches the uncertainty, vulnerability, and longing to fit in that is inside all of us, but mostly expresses thoughts and emotions most of us can never understand unless we ourselves experience them–of being an outsider and insider at the same time, of being different even though you belong to a group, of not being just one thing of being both, neither, or something in between. These poems tell a unique side of Indian heritage, one that many of us can relate to but rarely express so eloquently.
Rejection from the people you’re supposed to belong to can be a painful thing, and Mehta conveys this notion and the ramifications that go along with it. She also conveys how it is to rise above the negative and find comfort in the positive and self-acceptance, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Her exposition of eating disorder feels realistic and personal, as do most of her poems. You will learn the term “Pretendian” and know what the label can do to those who wear it.
The beginning of the book explains the haunting statistics of Native women as murder victims, and this tone sets the stage for the gripping poems to come, which evoke the senses, are visceral, beautiful, and mysteriously touching, like the poem “Do You See The Stars?” Here are a few lines: “I risked it all for you, because it was home, because it was you, the cage I left behind, dank and cloying and so sadly, pathetically familiar. It was a husk, forgotten like nightmares and used to be’s, but it was all I’d ever known.”
If you like poetry that can deeply touch you as well as inform and enlighten, treat yourself to “Bad Indian: Poems” by J.C. Mehta.