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The Moon That Turns You Back

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Member Reviews

The Moon That Turns You Back by Hala Alyan was an incredible and emotionally packed collection of poems that was based on the author's memories and experiences. This was an extremely timely read that was touching, heartbreaking, and something that should be read in more than just one sitting. As I am still an early enjoyer of poetry and sometimes find myself struggling a little to find what I enjoy, I couldn't recommend this enough.

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Thank you NetGalley (and the author!) for the ARC copy of this book,
Beautiful. The poems travel through so many different themes. Displacement in place, body, mind and soul. Motherhood. Family. Marriage.
The author is a Palestinian woman, who eloquently grapples with her homeland both physically and mental on these pages. As a white American woman, this was important for me to read and understand. Her experience is not something I can truly understand but I can observe and listen and this collection of poems felt like a good way to do that.
Poetry can be difficult for me and while there were poems in here that were exactly that. The overall feel and message of these poems came through the book.

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Each sentence in Alyan's poems pack a punch. In several of the poems, she redefines what a sentence or a phrase in a poem can look like. There were poems that made me halt, and dwell on a phrase or two and read the poem over and over (especially "[Political] Dialogue"). Many poems were especially moving because of the settings in which they took place, beautiful but filled with pain, especially in places that are at this very moment being barraged by violence in Gaza, the West Bank, and southern Lebanon. The Moon That Turns You Back was a beautiful capsule of the experience of someone who is the child of immigrants or an immigrant themselves, grappling with the guilt and confusion of having loved ones still "back home." Alyan is unabashed in expressing her emotions and experiences, and sharing stories of what seem to be very close family and friends. My only critique is that I felt some poems felt disjoined by such sharp back to back sentences, each one obviously very moving and powerful, but I was unsure how they worked together.

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stunning as always. hala alyan has never disappointed me. gripping, devastating. finished this collection in one sitting.

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Hala Alyan’s The Moon That Turns You Back was published this month by Harper Collins. Alyan is an Palestinian American poet who explores violence, displacement, and loss. She uses a myriad of inventive poetic forms to contain diaspora and resilience in the face of war.

In “Half-Life in Exile,” she writes:

There is nothing more terrible
than waiting for the terrible. I promise.
Was the grief worth the poem? No,
but you don’t interrogate a weed
for what it does with wreckage.
For what it’s done to get here.

For examples of her work, here is a lineated poem “September, a week in” and a fierce prose poem “Habituation” which contains my favorite passage in the book but hasn’t the story already changed because I told it:

Congratulations, Hala!

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The Moon That Turns You Back by Hala Alyan is a beautifully written collection of poetry. The author shared some extremely personal and difficult stories of her life through her amazing poetry. And she also used some unique formats for her poetry. I haven't read Alyan's previous books, but I'll be looking for them now after reading her poetry.

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this was such a poignant, raw and anguish palestinian point of you

I didn’t understand all of the poems but I admire the innovation the author bought with their different form of poems. those about palestinian identity, displacement and living outside of palestine were definitely my favourites

but this poetry book is also about motherhood, about immigration, about what it means to be a palestinian, to be an immigrant, to be the victim of modern colonialism

I highly recommend even if the reading experience / comprehension isn’t the easiest

rating: 4⭐️

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This is my first poetry collection and I thoroughly enjoyed Hala Alyan’s poems.

Alyan writes beautifully crafted poems in different formats on womanhood, relationships, motherhood, and feelings on home.

Overall the topics were heavy but handled so delicately and I found myself thinking about certain lines for some time. My two favorite poems were Relapse Dream Ending with My Grandmother’s Hand and After Iraq Sweidan.

I look forward to reading her novels next!

Thank you to Netgalley and Ecco for the ARC :)

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✨ Review ✨ The Moon That Turns You Back: Poems by Hala Alyan

Thanks to Ecco and #netgalley for the gifted advanced copy/ies of this book!

This collection of poems by Hala Alyan, a Palestinian American writer, is pretty far-ranging in topics. From family to her own miscarriages to life in an immigrant family, these poems stretch throughout her life experiences. A painful sense of dislocation, violence in Palestine and the Middle East, and the irony of the American political landscape thread throughout many of the poems.

Sometimes, I felt like this was a collection of poetry I wasn't smart enough I didn't have the full context I needed to deeply engage.

But the poems I could work my way through and find the deeper meaning were incredible. Here are a couple:

"When they Say Pledge of Allegiance, I Say" highlights her experience in a family of immigrants and their sense of dislocation and tenuous position in the US: "my country is a mouth trying to say pledge and it comes out all salt // my country is a mouth and nobody can pronounce my name // I mean my country forgets my name //I mean my country is always asking for my name // and I'm always saying it twice // spelling it like an address"

"Naturalized" pairs the trials of everyday life with the trauma of war and violence

Despite the sadness and grief that runs through this, it ends on a positive note with the words: "I'm here to tell you the tide will never stop coming in. / I'm here to tell you whatever you build will be ruined, so make it beautiful."

Definitely a solid collection of poetry, and I'm excited to dig in to more of her writing!

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Some really interesting stuff here with past and future generations, home and belonging. She also does cool formal stuff with the way poems are constructed. The ghazals were my faves.

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A creative collection of poetry spanning from Brooklyn to Beirut, Hala Alyan beautifully depicts the ugly themes of displacement and violence. This is a collection to devour in one sitting, read again over a period of time, and return to often.

As someone who is just beginning to delve into poetry, I do not feel adequately equipped to break down the exquisite writing I found in this collection beyond saying: wow, I really enjoyed this. The creative formatting very engaging and a perfect complement to the shifting narrative and emotions that Alyan lays out. The prose can be very raw and uncomfortable at times; this honesty is an imperative contribution to literature in the current political climate and offers a valuable perspective.

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I am convinced Hala Alyan couldn't write a bad book if she tried. I was first introduced to her work through Salt Houses, which was a devastatingly beautiful read. Getting to experience her poetry lets me see where her writing roots grew from. This was a beautiful collection of poetry that made me fall more in love with both this author's work and the genre of poetry itself.

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Hala Alyan is a masterful writer. Her poems are evocative and creative and heartwrenching all at once. This collections transports you to beauty and devastation, destruction and survival. I am thankful for more Hala Alyan poems in the world. May everyone read and be transformed. <3

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thank you @netgalley and @eccobooks for the early copy! publishing date is March 12, 2024

i will read anything Hala Alyan writes. she is an absolute master with words, her writing destroying my heart and burying into my soul. this collection is breathtaking, moving, all encompassing. it’s a reflection on grief and identity and Palestine and love and displacement

“Be lucky. Try to make it to the morning. Try to find your heart in the newsprint. Please. I’d rather be alive than holy. I don’t have time to write about the soul. There are bodies to count. There’s a man wearing his wedding tuxedo to sleep in case I meet God and there’s a brick of light before each bombing.”

love love love. an absolute must-read

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Absolutely gorgeous collection of poetry. I love Hala Alyan's work and this did not disappoint either. Please read this!

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The Moon That Turns You Back
Genre: poetry
Rating: 4⭐️

I was provided with a review copy for the publisher for the purpose of a review of my own opinions. Full review to come on bookstagram closer to publication.

This author blew me away with The Arsonists City, and I devoured this poetry collection in a day. In fairness, I’m a novice poetry reader, but always like to read poems to expand my reading palette. In this collection, some poems hit hard, and others went over my head - all were beautifully written. In my advanced ebook, there were some formatting issues, that negatively impacted my reading experience slightly, but still a heartfelt collection solidifying the author as an auto-read. Truly a writer that puts so much emotion and heartache into her words, which makes such a memorable experience for the reader.

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"Was the grief worth the poem? No, but you don't interrogate a weed for what it does with the wreckage. For what its done to get here."

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Ecco for this ARC! This was a beautiful collection of poems, Alyan excels at hitting me where I didn't know it would hurt. Off the bat there were a few poems I couldn't make sense of, but over the course of the day they hung over my head until I finally went back to read them over and over (and over) until I finished the rest of the poems.

There is one specific poem that I couldn't (and still can't) stop thinking about. The Uterus Speaks was profound way of approaching an experience with child loss / infertility. I think that people will broadly allude the the "shame" that women feel with infertility but its always this mystified, non-specific sadness. Writing a poem that voices the ugliest parts loss from the voice of a derisive uterus was brutal and honest. It oddly reminded me of one chapter in Alone with You In The Ether, where Blake narrated the FMCs entire day of intrusive thoughts through the lens of her mothers criticisms of her. Something about taking the ugliest ways that we talk to ourselves and personifying them is wildly powerful to me. I am not sure how common this is cause I obviously don't read much poetry, but this one sat with me.

Hala Alyan has had a very special place in my heart since I read Salt Houses and the Arsonist's City a few years ago (I even quoted her on the acknowledgements page of my undergraduate thesis.) She characterizes Arab diaspora, specifically that of Arab women, in such a raw and unexpected way. These poems were no exception. Once again, the brutal and beautiful truths of family across generations are laid bare and I am forced to reflect. There is a visceral honesty to her writing that is impossible to look past.

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i’m not usually a poetry reader but i love Hala Alyan’s two novels so I wanted to give her poetry a read. her poetry really drew me in, although i struggled to understand parts (i am not a regular poetry reader). i didn’t want to put this collection down.

i really enjoyed the interactive fiction, i’ve never read anything like it and i don’t know if i read it right but it had me enraptured.

my favorite poem was “when they say pledge allegiance, i say.”

in the future i would like to spend more time with this work when i can sit down and analyze and understand. unfortunately i didn’t have time for that right now in my life but i thoroughly enjoyed Alyan’s poems.

thanks to netgalley and Hala Alyan for the ARC!

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Hala Alyan is a powerful poet. The first poem was challenging for me to read - and I also loved its formal innovation. Time travelers also grabs me. There's so much beauty and devastation within these poems. A work of witness, a work of exile.

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There were a few poems in this collection that really stuck out to me! I am not a big poetry reader but I appreciate the emotion put into this collection. It was heartbreaking to read at points.

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