New Release Thursday – Bless the Blood by Walela Nehanda



TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions of cancer throughout

For this week’s review, dear readers, we’re going to switch things up a bit. The book I’m reviewing is not a novel, rather a YA memoir written in poetry, verse, and prose. That book is Bless the Blood: A Cancer Memoir by Walela Nehanda. Written by the author as a way to document their leukemia journey at the painfully young age of 23, Bless the Blood is an emotionally wrought journey through a very sick person’s life. While this subject matter may sound heavy, it belongs in YA spaces because of how many young people get cancer–and because it’s rarely talkeBless the Blood: A Cancer Memoird about beyond what sick-lit and those movies about young people dying of cancer tell you. While Bless the Blood is very often a tough read, it’s an essential one.

Nehanda, a Black, nonbinary person is gifted with words. Their poetry is powerful, making the reader really think about what they’re reading. Their journey toward health isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s rarely easy at all. While Nehanda chronicles their cancer journey, interspersed within all of that are poems and vignettes about their family, their partner, and their ancestors. There are a lot of discussions about Blackness within these pages–who gets to be Black, how Blackness affects medical treatment, etc. It’s a very eye-opening text. Medical discrimination based on race and gender is terribly common and lends itself to patients needlessly dying.

What’s most striking about Bless the Blood is that it manages to tell such a cohesive tale while using so many different forms of writing. There’s poetry, there’s prose, quotes interspersed between. It can sometimes be hard for me to follow along with a narrative when it’s written like this, but Bless the Blood balances all these different forms very well.

Bless the Blood is a powerful read. It’s about cancer, yes, but it’s also about discovering who you are, who you are meant to be, and finding love within oneself. It is unflinching and difficult but I really enjoyed every page of it. You can find Bless the Blood: A Cancer Memoir at the Oreana Library today!

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