The poet drags us through some well-worn criticisms of the schizophrenic reception immigrants receive once they reach the U.S. gossett tsk-tsks talk-show host blowhards (targets so worn out as to have been rendered irrelevant). She shakes her head over immigrants who are hated only to turn around and hate (echoing the 18-year-old montage of five men spewing their profanity-laden prejudices in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing). And yet. While her subject matter has been done to death, gossett manages to transcend the pedantic by writing a book that helps us realize the connection we all share. And this connection doesn’t arise from some cheeseball, humanity-exalting trait, either. Our collective choice to mount the hamster wheel that is daily life in this Greatest Nation on Earth — and our blind panic once we realize we don’t know how to jump off — binds us to one another.
Even more admirably, gossett’s words, some of which are trite and some of which are inspired, are not the reader’s chief guides to this realization. Rather, the rhythm of the verse itself leads the reader to experience the connection. We can feel that rhythm in poems like ‘have we got a job for you!’ and ‘report bias incidents against immigrants today!’ Every one of us is a part of the same damn hustle. gossett has obviously spent plenty of time listening in her neighborhood — “the upperupper west side manhattan neighborhood where the republic of harlem coincides with the dominican republic.” Since she’s not a native Spanish speaker, she’s listened not so much to the words her neighbors say but instead to what they are really asking for.
As a reward for making the effort to listen, she has heard that we live in a system we did not create and are trying frantically to simultaneously learn and beat. Give up your hustle, and you’re dead. While that may sound dire, she impresses again, because her rhythms still manage to pulsate with hope. In her experienced hands, we both face the cold, cruel world and imagine another way, a time or place where we wouldn’t have to have a hustle, but could just be.