Hands for Language is a groundbreaking poetry collection that expands the dialogue around literary representation. At its core, it is a bildungsroman in verse encompassing postcolonial and diasporic themes. This volume is intended to take readers on a journey through the eyes of a young girl of colour living in America. She explores themes of transnationalism, migration, language, family, and culture. Organized into four sections, Hands for Language mirrors her path to self-discovery and understanding. The collection is a commentary on the interaction between historical and modern conceptions of ethnicity, gender, and cultural identity. What is more remarkable is that these important themes of our times have been explored by a precocious and sensitive 15-year-old.
Uma Menon is a sixteen-year-old author from Winter Park, Florida. Her debut book, Hands for Language, will be released in May 2020 from Mawenzi House Publishers.
Her acclaimed writing has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and appeared in over three dozen different publications, including The Huffington Post, The Progressive, and The Rumpus. She received the 2019 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award from the Florida State Poets Association, won the University of Chicago Euphony Journal's 2019 Short Story Contest, and won the National High School Poetry Contest. Uma was named a 2019 Editor’s Pick Poet by Brain Mill Press and a 2020 National YoungArts Winner in Writing. Hands for Language was shortlisted for the 2019 International Erbacce-Prize.
Uma is the 2019-2020 Youth Fellow for the International Human Rights Art Festival, 2019 Congressional Guest to the State of the Union, and 2020 US Senate Youth Program Delegate. She was named by Kudumbam Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Women of Malayali Origin in 2018.
‘… why do we resist change harbor fear & whittle smoke if it is we who mothered rebellion against the inevitable’
‘… maybe this is where wildfires begin: with bodies stacked over each other worshipping the divine but really each other wading through monsoon season only to be lodged in the mouth of steam so this is what it means to pray i say to myself…’
‘… she holds out her finger & says here is a lifeline…’
‘… you i surrender to the world which you will learn to take care of but which may never learn to take proper care of you’
‘my sister etches a secret into my hand with the tip of an arrow dulled by years of heartache so it presses gently to a point…’
‘… my heart isn’t from here from the desert where the dry feet of humor spins sand through air…’
‘it is night now & the lights are nothing but songs in the wind: there but not here so we say our prayers to a room we believe but do not see in this outage i trace the handle of an oil lamp with my finger & pinch the grease along my thumb imagining a genie emerging from the mouth of the tired lamp spitting another body & swallowing me instead i rub my hair between my fingers to implant this oil & turn away this kindling i rub a genie between my teeth as a wish & i wave a finger through this air as a goodbye to the lightless’
‘field full of wishes & a breath too weak to keep’
‘my biggest fear isn’t knowing where i am from instead it is knowing where i am not from’
‘… how i cupped my ear when the rain promised to tell me why it wept each day...’