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4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,052 ratings  ·  306 reviews
The astonishing, powerful debut by the winner of a 2016 Whiting Writers' Award

WHEREAS her birth signaled the responsibility as mother to teach what it is to be Lakota therein the question: What did I know about being Lakota? Signaled panic, blood rush my embarrassment. What did I know of our language but pieces? Would I teach her to be pieces? Until a friend comforted, Don
Paperback, 107 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Graywolf Press
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Average rating 4.38  · 
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 ·  2,052 ratings  ·  306 reviews

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Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, favorites, poetry
An idiosyncratic collection of prose poetry that reflects on form, language, and the fraught history of the relationship between the Sioux, other Native peoples, and the U.S. government. In the first part, the writer fragments and tests the rules of English, in contemplating what it means to write, parent, and live as a Lakota woman. The second takes on the shortcomings of Congress’s 2009 Apology to Native Americans, caustically deconstructing its evasive language and imagining alternatives. The ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Before I read these poems for the first time, I listened to an interview with Layli Long Solder on the On Being Podcast, which helped provide some context for the poems. Krista Tippett doesn't always get it right, but her questions were often good places to start the discussion.

Layli Long Soldier does not want to be seen as a representative voice, which should be understandable, but if you read reviews of this collection you will see how many people get it wrong. The poems reflect her own exper
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While performance seems to suit the strengths of most modern poets’ works, Layli Long Soldier’s poetry is harder to separate from the page—which doesn’t mean that it rests there comfortably. Quite the contrary. Midway through WHEREAS (2017), her debut collection and a National Book Award finalist, the speaker states, “I will compose each sentence with care, by minding what the rules of writing dictate.” The declaration is noteworthy because, up to this point in the book, as an epigraph announces ...more
Tori (InToriLex)
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex

These poems are memorable and moving, but most of all they're important. Being Native American is existing in a place that has massacred and stolen from your ancestors and now expects you to be appreciative for surviving. This poetry explores how hard it is to gain understanding from a government that downplays it's transgressions while apologizing. This author plays with language throughout her poetry, and used formatting to add depth to her poems. Most
Zachary F.
Everything is in the language we use.

This felt like two totally different collections in one, which makes it a little tough to analyze and review.

The title of the book is a reference to the Native American Apology Resolution, a formal (though neutered) admission of wrongs by the U.S. government against indigenous peoples which was signed by President Obama in December 2009 and which features that word, whereas, 20 times. The second half of Whereas is an extended poetic dissection of this "ap
Aug 18, 2018 added it
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
Layli Long Soldier is a citizen of the United States and of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Her collection "Whereas" won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry.

In the first part of her collection, Long Soldier talks about her identity and how she came to re-assess it when she became a mother - as she wants to teach her daughter what it means to be a Lakota, she contemplates what it means to her, what she herself knows ab
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first section of the collection plays with language and form. The second section is more grounded and is a response to the formal apology given by congress to the native peoples in 2009. Here again the author plays with language to demonstrate the emptiness of the apology. These poems are complex and working at a different level than many others I’ve read. A great, important collection.
Rachel León
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2017, 2017
(4.5 stars, rounded up for it's rawness)

I'll admit I don't know a lot about poetry, but I thought this book was fantastic. It made me FEEL so much. It's so sad and beautiful and so worth reading.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
4.5 that I’m rounding up, because the poems contained within are beautiful, raw, angry, resigned, joyful, bodily real.
Bogi Takács
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-1st-pub
My lengthy review is now online! This was an amazing poetry collection:
I find it hard to rate this book. I feel it is one of those books where any rating would take away from the message and power it clearly holds.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is full of powerful and beautiful poems. The primary focus is on the Native American experience in this country, with its betrayals and prejudices but there are personal poems as well, and the two often overlap.

The poems examine the violence often contained within the language of the oppressor. The narrator also tries to reconnect with the lost or forgotten or stolen language of her ancestors. The fragments that remain guide her life.

These poems have everything to do with language, as
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can't get over this book. It arrived on my doorstep yesterday, and already I have read through it 2 1/2 times. The 1/2 times being the poems I keep reading obsessively, like I do my favorite songs.

Now I am going to go read it again.
Nadine Jones
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Layli Long Soldier's poems really make you work for your reward. Maybe it was just too much work for me, or I'm not smart enough to "get it." She likes to play with formatting and language like a modern day e.e. cummings, and many of her poems are very long and change format as they go along. I do most of my poem-reading first thing in the morning and I was not always up to the challenge. I was exhausted each time I finished one. So I can appreciate that she's brilliant and mind-blowing but I ca ...more
Craig Werner
"And whereas one of my students asks a visiting poet about education vaguely getting at what is worth pursuing? The poet suggests looking at whatever is/was missing in one's life and begin there. So many nods in the room around that table they acknowledge it too. In the missing power" (p. 67)

"Yet I smash head-on into this specific differentiation: *the* Creator vs. *their* Creator. Whereas this alters my concern entirely--how do I language a collision arrived at through separation?"

Those quotes
Elizabeth Willis
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, arc, small-press
Thanks to Graywolf for the ARC!

WHEREAS is a breathtaking innovation. These poems breathe and grow and puncture; they consider grass and national identity and language and writing. Long Soldier wonders how we can capture a thing by assigning it a name, assigning words to it (Can we?), and especially how a government can atone for genocide. It is a song against silencing, against over-simplification, against homogenization, against misunderstanding, against misremembering, against nationalism. "I
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I felt out of my depth with this one. Some parts I loved, some went over my head. My favourite part was the discussion of the inadequacy of the congressional apology to Native Americans. It was well thought out and did interesting things with language and form. I think I need to reread this collection in a year or two when I've read a bit more modern poetry.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly powerful. Essential reading.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved some, some left me cold, just as it should be with poetry - every reader and every reading is different - this is a rich collection I’ll be reading again.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Allie by: Bonnie Etherington
Shelves: 2018
A beautiful, difficult collection of poetry. I've said before that I'm not the most confident judge of poetry, and that stands (there was definitely some stuff in here I didn't "get"), but once I figured out the author's style, this work mostly flowed for me. I kept tearing my little library receipt into smaller and smaller pieces so I could bookmark my favorite phrases and poems.

The first tear, and I think my favorite, was "Wahpanica," about commas and poverty and the poverty of being denied yo
Sarah Cavar
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, poetry
Whereas a book connects too forlornly, too viciously to(o) itself to hope into a review.

I've been blown away and returned again. This is like no poetry collection I have ever read. I can see I'm not the only one who feels this way. In part 1, Long Soldier throws the reader directly into the midst of struggle, filling in the "gaps" the non-Native reader might experience only after she has had her say. In part 2, she bares her many lives; the familial, emotional, physical, linguistic, spiritual r
I had a hard time working my way through the first half or so - I think because I’m not that sophisticated a poetry reader. But I was so glad I persisted, because from “38” onwards was a must-read - felt really important in terms of thinking about “reconciliation” and its conceits and legalisms, what it means, the purposes it serves, and what it doesn’t say/fix.
Robin Schultze
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a collection worth digging your heels into: visceral, yet measured, attacks on language, perceived identity, and privilege. Worth spending time on/worth coming back to.
John Madera
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“How do I language a collision arrived at through separation?” Layli Long Soldier asks in Whereas, her commanding and utterly necessary collection, this query informing the book as a whole, Long Soldier deftly employing a poetics of fracture, erasure, and obscuration toward attacking the American empire’s innumerable, and woefully ongoing, lies to and betrayals of Native Americans, Long Soldier’s lyrical indictment of oppressive legalese, not to mention oppressive language generally, absolutely ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very glad to end 2019 with this poetry collection. I'll also start 2020 by re-reading it.
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
*long exhale* i was already acquainted with the second part of this book because my best friend teaches it pretty regularly, but reading the whole thing cover-to-cover was a totally new experience. long soldier's precision with language--grammar, punctuation, diction, space, all of it, both her own and the language of governmental 'apology'--is like... inexpressibly good.
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it
As with all my Goodreads ratings, my rating for this book - three stars, liked it, but unevenly - reflects my subjective reaction to it, not an assessment of its objective merit. I found the poem '38' particularly moving. It is named for and about the hanging of 38 Dakota men by the US government in the same week that President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The poem focused not just on the contrast in the acts, but in our memory of them, with the Proclamation proudly touted throu ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning. I feel like any words I try to pile on top of my experience reading this book, as of finishing it late last night, will be premature.
Ai Miller
This was a gorgeous collection, both the poems in front but especially the "Whereas" portion. Long Soldier's poetry is biting and funny and wrenching and so thought-provoking. There were so many great lines that were moving, and the style seemed constantly in motion, always shifting, never settling, which made for a really refreshing reading experience. Highlights for me included "38" (though it feels so wrong to name that as a "favorite," I just want everyone I know to read it,) the "Diction" s ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant collection about the ongoing politics and conversation surrounding Native Americans and the U.S. government. Some poems are narrative-like and prose-y, while others are very visual and play on the page in different ways. I can't say I fully understood all the poems on the first read-through, and maybe some won't ever be completely clear, but you can definitely appreciate the work and narratives and confrontation here without having to "get" every last bit of it.

My very favori
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Layli Long Soldier is the author of WHERREAS, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Jean Stein Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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