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Citizen Illegal

4.53  ·  Rating details ·  172 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
In this stunning debut, poet José Olivarez explores the stories, contradictions, joys, and sorrows that embody life in the spaces between Mexico and America. He paints vivid portraits of good kids, bad kids, families clinging to hope, life after the steel mills, gentrifying barrios, and everything in between. Drawing on the rich traditions of Latinx and Chicago writers lik ...more
Paperback, 69 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Haymarket Books
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Nahid Soltanzadeh
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I just finished this book in one sitting and I'm in awe. I learned more than I have ever learned from a poetry book, in terms of both craft & content. Like, if we each had an empathy score for the lives we haven't lived but have listened to, mine just sky-rocketed.
Anna |hayinas7
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Citizen Illegal is a beautiful piece of artwork. This collection of poetry explores what it means to be a first-generation Mexican-American. José paints a vivid portrait of family, love, gender, class, immigration and traditions of Latinx. Highly recommend.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My review for the Chicago Tribune:

The word “ode” gets thrown around a lot in relation to poetry, so it’s worth taking a look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of the term: “a lyric poem usually marked by exaltation of feeling and style, varying length of line, and complexity of stanza forms.” A cross-check with the Poetry Foundation adds that an ode is “a formal, often ceremonious lyric poem that addresses and often celebrates a person, place, thing, or ide
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was fantastic. I couldn't put it down--i laughed out loud several times. Olivarez had me swinging between feeling good, sad, and with righteous injustice over the course of a few lines. Then repeat. And repeat again.
Haymarket Books has brought me back to poetry.
Violet Muhle Bruce
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mcfaul-reading
Just beautiful. This poetry is so real and vibrant and honest that it left me speechless. The way this book has so many of my favorite types of poetry is truly incredible. I believe there is something for everyone in this book, take a couple hours out of your day and read it.
Jul 26, 2018 added it
Shelves: poetry
I'm so glad this collection of poetry exists in our world today. Jose Olivarez writes beautifully with love, humor and wit, about his experience growing up Mexican-American, the child of immigrants, about the many intersections of his life & his identity, about his complicated and deep love for his mother, his brothers, his father. Thank you Haymarket for sending me an advanced review copy!
Oct 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't know a lot about poetry, but there's a lot of good shit in here.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I heard Jose Olivarez read his poems at the end of October (2018) and liked him and his poems. He has a very winning personality. Bought the book at the reading.

Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Poetry has always been my favorite genre because of the emotions it evokes from a reader. I have been getting poetry books left and right from the library. I recently was able to get Citizen Illegal By José Olivarez -- which has been released recently. I was immediately drawn to this poetry book because of the synopsis and theme of this poetry. I decided to write a review on this book and break down what this poetry revealed to me. Here is the link to my full review:
Karin Salisbury
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a powerful, honest voice. I continue to revisit various poems, each one packed with intensity, thoughtfulness, love, and raw dignity.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just inhaled this book in one sitting. I’m typing this from the bookstore because I haven’t even left yet.

It’s perfect. I loved it. I hope you do too.
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Thank you to Edelweiss+ for this advanced eGalley of “Citizen Illegal”.

José Olivarez lets you into his world: its pain, its contradictions, and its frustrations.

As a Mexican-American his experience is not unlike those whose mixed ethnicity makes it difficult to figure out which “box to tick”: He’s a man with a cultural stake in two worlds—born of Mexican ancestry, but able to claim American citizenship.

To identify too closely with one, leaves him vulnerable to the criticisms of the other, but
Kent Winward
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
The poems were timely politically and accessible, but the universality of the poet's life started to feel like every poet who consistently hits the local open mics: conflicts with parents, conflicts and heartbreak with love interests, concern over where one fits in, cultural and family pressures, etc. All of those were fine, but I wanted something a little bit more, whether more musicality in the words and rhythm or more contradictions within the poet's character, just a little more to make the ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Though I’ve read a fair amount of poetry before, I still feel quite new to it all when I take on reading a new collection. I think with "Citizen Illegal" I’ve finally begun to realize the incredible precision and thought it takes to tell stories in just a span of a few lines. I found much of what Olivarez wrote about to be relatable which made me love his work all the more. One piece that stood out to me was his poem “Mexican American Obituary” (which is a sort of homage to Pedro Pietri “Puerto ...more
Leah Rachel
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Citizen Illegal by Joé Olivarez is a poetry collection that builds on its own power, getting better as it goes on. Not all of the poems throughout had the same level of impact, but as a collection, it builds the foundation until Part V is a storm, crackling and booming with the weight of the emotions that we’ve been slowly raising throughout. “I Loved the World So I Married It” brought me to tears (“music, even on the day my grandma died / there were mangos though i tasted nothing.”). “Love Poem ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I read this entire poetry collection in one day. I couldn't put it down. Olivarez beautifully captures the cultural-in-between of being Chicano, and he does so without being stuffy or overly romantic. I earmarked almost every other poem in this collection because the writing is honest, humorous and accessible. As a Chicana poet, I'm always on the hunt for poetry collections and authors who delve into the push and pull of immigrant experiences similar to those my family live(d) through and which ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a Chicana this collection changed my life. The tension between the sorrow and joys of Mexican experience in the contemporary US are expressed in a variety of ways through a beautiful collection of poems. The revisioning of Mexican Heaven through several versions of the poem were a particular joy. I was left in tears and with warmth in my heart and the title poem will leave you with more questions and a further desire to keep reading.
Carla Ferreira
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Stop. Drop. Read this.

One of my English language learners said to me upon reading this book, "The poems feel true, feel real."

To José Olivarez, thank you for making my students feel heard, feel celebrated. This book is healing. It also has so many great moments of humor, which I think can often be so hard to do right in poetry. Olivarez does it right. This whole collection does so many things right.

So stop reading my review. Go read this book.
Janelle Bailey
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
59: Citizen Illegal by Jose Olivarez...pre-Wisconsin Book Festival. This is a smart poet whose work is contained in these pages, Sr. Olivarez. It's agonizing material and story from the get-go but beautiful poetry in all ways. I would have loved to have taught this collection in AP English Literature for its relevance and accessibility and strength of word and phrase. I very much look forward to hearing Olivarez read from and speak to his work.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve loved José Olivarez’s work for a while and have been very excited to see his debut collection. It didn’t disappoint. Many of these poems I’d read before, and I loved them all over again. The new ones are sure to become new faves. I love how this book encompasses both fire and tenderness, poems about race and place, but also about love in many forms. Such a great read.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
it’s one thing to pick up a book based off recommendations and an amazing cover. it is a whole other to pick up the book and put it down 4 times over the course of reading it because you feel seem and validated. the book made me simultaneously miss home and further understand my identity as chicanx.
Greg Adams
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
With keen observation skills, urban honesty and subtle humor, Olivarez provides a much-needed viewpoint on life for Latinos in the age of the anti-everything president. This should be a required read for ALL Americans.
Karla Strand
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Brilliant. Loving the BreakBeat Poets series so much.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read these poems by @_joseolivarez and take the punch. Be indicted and accept it. Come and meet him in October @oakparklibrary.
Nairobi Enriquez
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
It had a few good lines.
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fingers crossed for the manifestation of what I hope will be a much longer review in the near future, but let me just say: you really should read this book of poems when it comes out in September.
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This collection is stunning, a must read. I can’t wait to discuss with #THEBOOKCHAT and with my students.
Mark Pinkerton
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fresh voice, and worth reading. I recommend this book, and this poet. It's not my heritage, and that's all the more reason to read it.
Ben Niespodziany
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Boy, can Jose Olivarez paint a picture. What a stunning debut collection. One you need in your collection (and the Sentrock artwork is merely icing on the tres leches cake).
Emily Baer
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Note: Rose that Grows from Concrete was my favorite part
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