Unflinching in its honesty, brutality, and beauty, the collection fiercely addresses conflict and childhood, inviting readers to engage in complex and often challenging issues. Senegal Taxi weaves together verse, dialogue, and visual art created by Herrera specifically for the book. Stylistically genre-leaping, these many layers are part of the collection’s innovation. Phantom-like televisions, mud drawings, witness testimonies, insects, and weaponry are all storytellers that join the siblings for a theatrical crescendo. Each poem is told from a different point of view, which Herrera calls “mud drawings,” referring to the evocative symbols of hope the children create as they hide in a cave on their way to Senegal, where they plan to catch a boat to the United States.
This collection signals a poignant shift for Herrera as he continues to use his craft to focus attention on global concerns. In so doing, he offers an acknowledgment that the suffering of some is the suffering of all.
“While reporters can give you the what, when, and where of a war, a poet with the enormous gifts of Juan Herrera can give you its soul. He does this by giving us the voices of both sides. The Janjaweed, who boast about their horrible deeds, and those who are their victims. Among them children with no father, no mother, no food, and no water.”—Ishmael Reed
“Poem, story, mirage, and ritual—this book is steeped in the heat and sand, oil and blood, families and warriors that inspired it. Senegal Taxi grabs your heart as Herrera artfully writes with honesty, grace, clarity, a pulse on justice, and an understanding of the paradoxes contained in the act of being human amidst the struggles, tragedy, dreams, and survival which bleed from modern Sudan.”—Devorah Major, author of Black Bleeds into Green
“The meter is on! Once again, Juan Felipe Herrera takes his readers on a double-yellow-line-crossing, edge-of-your-seat journey that defies boundaries, borders or any travel map.”—Michele Serros, author of Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard
“It’s an incredibly politically conscious project that situates the African tragedy back at the center of activist art, reminding readers that there’s still work to be done to contribute to the healing since, by participating in the apathy, we all contributed to the damage.”—Rigoberto González, author of Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa
“The lesson is clear: one must endure. There is hope even for those that seem to be too small to resist.”—Lauro Flores, author of The Floating Borderlands: Twenty-Five Years of U.S. Hispanic Literature
“Three children, two insects, two weapons and a TV—these voices take us to the deathworld of Darfur in this masterful new work by California poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. With the Popol Vuh on his tongue, the author of Maya Drifter stretches out to a present-day inferno of murder, dismemberment, underworld gods, where only the trickster lives to tell the tale. A beautiful and moving book.”—Mary Louise Pratt, author of Critical Passions: Selected Essays