Radiant and tender, My Baby First Birthday is a collection that examines innocence, asking us who gets to be loved and who has to deplete themselves just to survive. Jenny Zhang writes about accepting pain, about the way we fetishize womanhood and motherhood and reduce women to their violations, traumas, and body parts. She questions the way we feminize and racialize nurturing, and live in service of other people’s dreams. How we idealize birth and being baby, how it’s only in our mothers’ wombs that we’re still considered innocent, blameless, and undamaged because it’s only then that we don’t have to earn love. Her poems explore the obscenity of patriarchy, whiteness, and capitalism, the violence of rescue and heroism. The magic trick in My Baby First Birthday is that despite all these themes, the book never feels like some jeremiad. Zhang uses friendship as a lyric. She seeks tenderness, radiant beauty, and having love for your mistakes. Through all this, she writes about being alone―really alone, like why-was-I-ever-born alone―and trying, despite everything, to reach out and touch something―skin to skin, animal to animal.
Paperback, 186 Pages
Jenny Zhang was born in Shanghai and raised in Queens. She is the author of the poetry collection Dear Jenny, We Are All Find, the non-fiction chapbook Hags, and the e-book The Selected Jenny Zhang. Her essay "How It Feels" was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2015. She holds degrees from Stanford University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop.