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Lessons on Expulsion

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  470 ratings  ·  61 reviews
An award-winning and hard-hitting new voice in contemporary American poetry

The first time I ever came the light was weak and carnivorous.

I covered my eyes and the night cleared its dumb throat.

I heard my mother wringing her hands the next morning.

Of course I put my underwear on backwards, of course the elastic didn't work.

What I wanted most at that moment was a sandwich.

Paperback, 96 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Graywolf Press
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Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, poetry
A fast-moving debut collection of poems exploring the borderlands, desire, and Mexican-American identity. Most of the pieces here sketch vivid fragments of the poet’s personal history, from her romances abroad to her childhood as the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants, while others delve into the struggles and joys of daily life in Mexico. Sánchez writes forceful poetry, and has a penchant for veering from the beautiful to the unsettling, the erotic to the violent, in the span of a few ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2018indch
A moving, often sad, collection of poems.

Erika Sanchez is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and her poems are filled with their struggles and her own. Her feeling like she has failed to be their ideal daughter. Sex and its pleasures and its failures. Suicide attempts and mass murders in Brazil and other Latin American countries, as well as in Mexico. Loss, loss, and more loss told with brilliant imagery and metaphors.

A powerful group of poems.
Erica Wright
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Startling, assertive, wild, & wonderful. One of my favorite collections so far this year. ...more
Erika L. Sánchez’s poetry is hard to forget once you first read it – and it’s not just because of her searing, vibrant writing voice. Her first book of poetry, LESSONS ON EXPULSION, shares her upbringing in the U.S. as the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants and how her culture and personal attitudes and beliefs have shaped her perception of the world. She delivers anecdotes on factory workers, teenagers, prostitutes, assault victims, and drug traffickers with a journalist’s frankness, a ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
While the collection of poems is well-written, it returns to the same well, over and over again, throughout. If a poem isn't about the debasement of sex (in general), it has to use either "Shit" or "Excrement" as a metaphor. Overall, the poems weren't my cup of tea. A lot of were ugly and/or unpleasant. There were some interesting gleanings on the effects of poverty, the emotional ramifications, and how seeing yourself through the lens of treatment can lead to a continuous self-undoing; and if t ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"And when the meaning is all gutted / from the day / I will delight / in the sticky mess, in a swirl / so deep I forget myself."

This month's #3sunpoetry challenge was to read a book from a Latinx poet. I had heard good things about Lessons on Expulsion, so I decided to pick that up. This book was so damn good, and I fell in love with it.

Erika L. Sanchez's poems are haunting. She is bold and honest, and digs into the grittiness of the situations that she covers. This collection was pretty dark,
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
These poems were a bit too visceral for my taste. Took me a long time to get through, can only withstand sandpaper on skin for so long, ya know? It’s clear that the crude, raw feel was what the poet was going for, so if that’s what you want, delve in.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fun-lit, poetry, chicano
If I had to pick one word to describe Lessons on Expulsion, it would be “brutal.” The eye-catching cover, depicting a woman wearing a white-skinned, rosy-cheeked mask sewn to her face but torn, seems very appropriate, because of the comments on race, beauty standards, and desire. I would like to know if it was painting specifically for this book or not.

“Lessons,” the author’s first poetry collection, wields sex like a weapon. This is not a straightforward story of “young girl from conservative
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a book that I really took my time to get through—six months, to be more exact. The reason for that? Very rarely, almost never, do I come upon any literature that I can relate to in such a complete sense. Written by Erika Sánchez, a daughter of Mexican immigrants born in the midwest (exactly like myself), Lessons on Expulsion is an exploration in rawness and vulnerability via poetry. I felt that I really needed to take my time with this. There are so many lines and stanzas that left me b ...more
Laurel L. Perez
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The collection is full of a range confessional poems—some s are so up-close that the reader feels like a voyeur: “we braid our bodies together/ on my twin bed. I dig my face into his beard… we eat two slippery eggs and drink coffee with frothy milk” (from “Lavapiés”). No matter the length of the focus, abstracted from time or in the moment, body imagery is used powerfully to texture and give vitality to the poems. In “Self-Portrait”, Sanchez writes, “My tongue grows plump/ as a greedy slug./ Aga ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book knocked my socks off. Raw, feminist, confessional with striking word combinations. To read this is to understand what it is to be of two cultures.

In Crossing, Sanchez starts with her parents immigration to the States and ends with the devastatingly beautiful lines to her mother: "I tell her how I want to understand the violence tangled in this tissue, the desert threaded in this flesh."

Best poetry book I've read all year. I shit you not!
Jul 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
What's all the fuss about this collection for? These days it seems all it takes to be hailed as a poet is to string together some dark imagery from your deeply dysfunctional life (bonus points if you are from one marginalized group or another so that middle America can be delightfully shocked and awestruck by your wretched existence).

Be all that as it may, these aren't even particularly poetic. Meh...that's all...just 70 pages of meh. Oh, but I'm sure this work will be quite highly praised. So y
Caiti S
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Didn't really connect with these poems. There's a lot of powerful and visceral imagery, but I ended up only really liking two or three poems. It was one of those collections that I left feeling like I still don't really "get" poetry.
Courtney Hatch
I give the cover art by Judithe Hernandez 5 giant gold stars.
Favorite lines:
“I call my mother to explain
how I scour landscapes, fold them
and keep them in a soft leather bag.

I tell her how I want to understand
the violence tangled in this tissue,
the desert threaded in this flesh.”

It wasn’t my all-time favorite book of poetry, but I found Sanchez’s use of both English and Spanish to be very effective. It seemed that many poems were hitting the same note, though. She is really great at creating sta
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Often raw and crude, this collection embodies a sense of purposelessness and loneliness, a search for one’s place in a violent, cruel world. “Ama, I leave because / I feel like an unfinished / poem, because I am always trying / to bridge the difference,” writes the poet in “Ama.”

I first dipped into “Lessons on Expulsion” a couple months ago but put it aside for awhile. I needed time and space to consider this challenging collection. These poems deserve slow reading and open minds. They confront
Angie Flores
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Erika L. Sanchez has become one of my new favorite Latina poets. She writes about the experience of being Latina very accurately and almost relatable. She almost brings out a Sylvia Plath vibe in her poems, "Six months after contemplating suicide," and "The Poet at Fifteen." What I loved the most about her poetry was that the setting of the poems ranged from Mexico, the U.S., and Spain. It's wonderful to read Latina poets who include multicultural elements in their poems.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2018, women
"...anything to smother the soft and constant vertigo, to stitch a spirit so riddled with leeches."

favorite poems:
- spring
- letter from new york
- lavapiés
- on the eve of the tepehuán revolt
- to you on my birthday
- crossing
- orchid
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: small-press, 2017
One of those collections where it feels like sparks flying from the author's brain to yours.
Mar 28, 2020 added it
Shelves: poetry
" What is God to me
but an open-mouthed stranger?
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unpleasant and ugly images are used so well here in a brutally honest collection of poetry that will kept me both uncomfortable and amazed.

My favorite excerpts (copied and pasted from my Kindle highlights, so I'm sure it will mess with formatting):

Some evenings you brim with the sky’s quiet bruising—
colors as beautiful as the spilled brains of a bird.

In your flamboyant despair, you fail to suck the sweetness from all that is good and holy. Watch the pigeons so lovely in their suffering! In the
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Violence, sex, lust, death, disappointment, depression, loss--Sanchez doesn't shy away from anything in this collection. She takes all that she inherits with open arms and tries to reconcile this with her self, which is sometimes "other" from this inheritance. Several poems address the hypersexualization foisted upon the speaker as a girl by strange men and by the speaker's mother. Several poems address the hideous violence present in some parts of Mexico due to drug trafficking.

These lines clo
Poetry, poetry. Always something I’m either really into or something I’m completely indifferent toward. Erika L. Sánchez’s debut collection, Lessons on Expulsion is one I’m absolutely, without a doubt, very, very into. This is the kind of poetry I like: dark, a little despairing, very honest, super feminist, unapologetic about its Latinidad. 10/10 the content I’m here for.

Consider the closing section from “Hija de la Chingada,” a poem about sexuality, shame, mothers, and coming of age:
Now you
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
As I read this collection, I was very much aware that the poet is quite young; I mean, the poems feel like they are written by someone who doesn't have much experience in the world. There are, in my view, three kinds of poems that populate this book:

1. "love" poems that reflect the kind of dysfunctional love/lust relationships that seem normal to young women in their 20s and early 30s but are annoying, stupid, and boring to people ages 35 and above.
2. poems about important/appalling things happe
David Rodolfo
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Poetry is meant to be read aloud, and the experience of listening to myself as I do so is what best helps me judge if think a book of poetry is worthwhile. Trust me, this is something you need to experience.

Erika L. Sánchez masterfully combines English and Spanish while discussing immigration, violence, and sexuality. To read Erika's poems is to see how she bares her soul and her observations on a brutal world. However, despite the unpleasantness of the topic, her almost effortless flow makes it
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent collection of poetry - I've been excited to read it since seeing it advertised on Graywolf's Instagram. Sánchez is real, honest, and unforgiving in her accounts of cultural identity, sexual awakening, and personal struggles. The poems crackle with language and images as authentic as the honest voice. I highly recommend this one!

"Mexico, the ocean - where we began /
when we were young and where we end, /
almost equally young. //

But that must be worth something, right? /
Beauty is all abou
Oct 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, poetry
Probably more like 3.5 stars. The poems are strong, and I like them more individually than taken together as a collection. They are visceral and tough and are welcome in the context of, say, a literary magazine after you’ve read yet another tired John Ashbery and want something more real and more immediate to life. But they can lack a bit of dynamism and nuance when they’re all lined up together. That’s a small quibble, though, over a young poet with real talent who is going to only grow stronge ...more
Jul 31, 2017 added it
Shelves: poetry
i've read this once and i do not feel i'm done with the book yet. i've dog-eared most pages and scrawled in the margins. i've written out lines in my journal. quite simply, i am in love with these poems. each on its own resonates, is full of compelling imagery, but all together they form a sensorial and imagery overload that drenches me in light and dark and compassion and the grotesque and the world.
Patti K
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A debut book of poetry from 2017, Sanchez has exploded onto the scene.
She writes with a lyrical toughness and raw energy that brings each poem
right into your face. A feminist perspective on immigration, migrants, misogyny,
love and sex, and the violent underworld of Mexico. She takes on a lot and does
justice to each topic. Somewhat difficult to read because of the violence which
partially describes her subject, but taken in smaller doses, it is a thrill of hard
truths. Recommend.
A E Fox
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From the very first poem--wow! I can't find anything to complain about when it comes to this chapbook. It had me looking crazy in public because I was kicking, squealing, crying, pulling my hair out and more. This is a fine example of how a chapbook should be. Lingering. A new favorite and I look forward to rereading it and finding Erika's YA novel. This is a must-read for anyone who loves poetry, wants to study poetry, writes poetry themselves.
Jose Ayala
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This collection of poems punches your heart in the gut. I re-read every poem several times, unraveling something new and deeper with each reading. These poems are not ones you're going to find on Instagram posts, these poems are heart wrenchingly honest, brutal, and beautiful. I can't wait to read what Erika Sanchez comes up with next.

Favorites in this collection:
Hija de la Chingada
Poem of My Humiliations
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Erika L. Sánchez is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. A poet, novelist, and essayist, her debut poetry collection, Lessons on Expulsion, was published by Graywolf in July 2017, and was a finalist for the PEN America Open Book Award. Her debut young adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, published in October 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers, is a New York Times Bestseller and a ...more

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