cover image Bless the Blood

Bless the Blood

Walela Nehanda. Kokila, $19.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-52949-2

In this strikingly intimate debut memoir, Nehanda delivers an unflinching account of living with leukemia as a Black, queer, nonbinary person. The poet conveys their yearslong experience with blood cancer, which they were diagnosed with in 2017 at 23, via beautifully rendered stream of conscious prose and biting poetry; “this is not a romanticization of tragedy,” Nehanda writes in an author’s note—“welcome to my lecture on medical racism.” The creator addresses the time during which they lived with their parents while undergoing treatment, depicting their strained parent-child relationship following years of physical and emotional abuse (“Abuse is their idea of parenting”), their dealings with bigoted doctors (“American Horror Story: Racist Hospital Edition”), and the monetary worries that led to their late diagnosis (“I didn’t go to the doctor for years/ ...anything,/ including a grave,/ was better than medical debt”). A forcefully crafted collection of poetic and narrative storytelling with devastating impact, Nehanda’s searing work candidly speaks to complex truths surrounding the emotional, financial, physical, and social realities of illness and medical racism in contemporary America. Ages 14–up. Agent: Katherine Latshaw, Folio Literary. (Feb.)