Kiki Petrosino, 1979-

Book - 2022

"Bright: A Memoir, the first full-length essay collection from acclaimed poet Kiki Petrosino, is a work of lyric nonfiction, offering glimpses of a life lived between cultural worlds. "Bright," a slang term used to describe light-skinned people of interracial American ancestry, becomes the starting point for an extended meditation on the author's upbringing in a mixed Black and Italian American family. Alternating moments of memoir, archival research, close reading and reverie, this work contemplates the enduring, deeply personal legacies of enslavement and racial discrimination in America. Situated at the luminous crossroads where public and private histories collide, Bright asks important questions about love, heritage..., identity and creativity." -- Amazon.

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2nd Floor 814.6/Petrosino Checked In
2nd Floor 814.6/Petrosino Checked In
Louisville, KY : Sarabande Books [2022]
Main Author
Kiki Petrosino, 1979- (author)
Item Description
"A memoir"--Cover.
Physical Description
105 pages ; 18 cm
Issued also as an ebook
Includes bibliographic references.
  • The Mirror
  • The Garden
  • The Promise
  • The Maiden
  • The Cottage
  • The Wish
  • The Spell
  • The Question
  • The Departing
  • The Key
  • The Riddle
  • The Prince
  • The Mirror (II)
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Poet and essayist Petrosino (White Blood) presents a stunning exploration of her "brightness," a term that refers to a light-skinned person with Black and white ancestry. Born to a Black mother and white father in 1979, Petrosino struggled to find a sense of belonging as one of only a few Black children, including her sister, at her Catholic school in Shrewsbury, Pa.: "Always, just at the edge of my vision, the white world burst into ecstatic blossom: girls sharing snacks & going to birthday parties, girls talking all night on the phone." In poetic vignettes that flit back and forth through time, Petrosino unpacks her "brightness," describing it alternately as "a house," "a friend," and a "pain", and excavates the word's history to comment on the many ways Black bodies have been perceived and policed: "What I don't like about my Brightness: how it gets to be a surface where others feel invited to view themselves. In others' gazes, I lose my privacy, just as the moon does, reflecting." While brief, her work packs a hefty punch, offering a luminous descent into the complicated racial history of the United States and a nuanced path to a more expansive future. This challenging and soulful work shines with intellect. (Aug.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A poet's meditations on beauty and grief. Award-winning poet Petrosino probes her identity as a poet and biracial woman in a slender, expressive memoir that swirls around the meaning of bright, "an American slang term for light-skinned people of Black & white ancestry. It's not a compliment." The daughter of a Black mother and Italian American father, the author was born in Baltimore in 1979 and grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where she and her sister were the only two Black children in their parochial school. She longed for the kind of easy, exuberant friendships she saw among the White girls. "Back then," she writes, "I believed in my own unworthiness as deeply as I believed in the Holy Trinity." Loss, loneliness, and a yearning for order in a chaotic world: These themes recur as Petrosino meditates on fairy tales, Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, her African ancestry, the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Dante's Inferno, and The Tempest. She was bereft by the suicide of her beloved paternal grandfather, Prospero, whose twice-yearly visits she cherished. Though Catholics deem suicide a sin, Petrosino refuses to think of her grandfather as "a wrongdoer, un malvivente." In the Inferno, the soul of the suicide has become a thorn tree, an image that haunts her. "Someday," she writes, "I'll tell you of the hours I spent with Inferno in my hands, searching, again, for that thorn tree." She searches, as well, for consolation in poetry. Hearing Seamus Heaney recite his poem "Digging" leads her to reflect on his enviable ability "to root down into multiple traditions of belonging: culture & poetry; faith & poetry; country & family & poetry." Her own sense of belonging feels fragile. Brightness sets her apart, spiraling "around my losses, thorn & blood & briar." Her brightness reflects the White world, creating a surface "where others feel invited to view themselves" and where she, in turn, is diminished. A spare, affecting, lyrical memoir. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

1. Bright is an American slang term for light-skinned people of Black & white ancestry. It's not a compliment. From an early age, I understood how bright applies to me, to my skin, to the face I show the world. I'm fair for a Black girl. Powdery-pale, especially in winter. It's hard to love bright . The sly, knowing way its lone syllable sidles up. Bright gets too close too soon, thinking it knows all about me. To be frank, there's a mean smile in the word. Light, bright, & damn near white , goes the rhyme. Fuck those light brights , goes another. I'm a college professor. As soon as I enter the classroom, as soon as I put my books on the lectern, as soon as I begin speaking, those who don't like bright don't like me, & I can feel it. So what? Excerpted from Bright: A Memoir by Kiki Petrosino All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.