I received a copy of Hali Sofala-Jones’ Afakasi | Half-Caste through Marías at Sampaguitas for review purposes. As always, this review reflects only my honest thoughts on the book.
Afakasi | Half-Caste
by Hali Sofala-Jones
Publication Date: August 2019
Hali Sofala-Jones’ debut collection Afakasi | Half-Caste traverses the territory of inbetweeness in turns of bittersweet lament and humorous, reclamative song. We are pulled in to the aural tap, tap, tapping of history as lived in and on Sofala-Jones’ skin. This debut collection poetically brings to mind other etymologies of the word ‘afakasi’ – that is afa, meaning rope, and kasi meaning one: one rope. There is, in her many strands of identity and experience, of growing up afakasi in diaspora, one voice that movingly – convincingly – takes the reader poetically from the first line in the book ”There are no words that are mine to speak’ to its last line
‘I find my tongue’. We believe her because in a universal language, through word-breathing, aurally-leaning, imagistic poetry crafted with a seeming ease, Hali finds her voice and some of ours.
—Selina Tusitala Marsh, New Zealand Poet Laureate and author of Dark Sparring: Poems
Afkasi | Half-Caste is a fine collection that reflects Hali Sofala-Jones’ fascinating engagement with dualities of identity, gender and the body. Her poems reveal an engagement with form that is mature and sophisticated, yet what she manages most effectively to do, is find language to tackle issues that combine the courage to explore the intimate biographies of self, while engaging in the public discourses that surround identity and place. Her talent and the clarity of her vision and sensibility, as an American poet engaged with the complex themes of identity and the body, are in full and impressive display. Hers is a welcome and enriching new voice to our dynamic poetic landscape.
—Kwame Dawes, author of City of Bones: A Testament
“To be made and unmade again” is a “desire” embedded, and questioned, throughout Sofala-Jones piercing first book of poems, Afakasi / Half-caste. The “I” of these poems is a shapeshifter, confronting what it feels like to be repeatedly mis-seen. Never shying from painful “truths,” Sofala-Jones examines the “violence of self-erasure” as well as the violence inflicted on the speaker by others and by misshapen notions of identity, vis-à-vis gender and race. Sofala-Jones’s poems illuminate the position of the “half-caste” in deeply moving fashion, offering a powerful and defiant voice forged at the crossroads of peoples, nations, and histories.
—Shara McCallum, author of Madwoman
About the Author
Hali F. Sofala-Jones is a Samoan American teacher and writer. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her poetry has been published both in the United States and abroad, appearing in Nimrod International Journal, The Bitter Oleander, CALYX, Blue Mesa Review, The Missouri Review, The Samoan Observer, and elsewhere. Her debut collection of poetry, Afakasi | Half-Caste is forthcoming in 2019 from Sundress Publications. She lives and works in Milledgeville, Georgia.