In Breath Better Spent, DaMaris B. Hill hoists her childhood self onto her shoulders, together taking in the landscape of Black girlhood in America. At a time when Black girls across the country are increasingly vulnerable to unjust violence, unwarranted incarceration, and unnoticed disappearance, Hill chooses to celebrate and protect the girl she carries, using the narrative-in-verse style of her acclaimed book A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing to revisit her youth. There, jelly sandals, Double Dutch beats, and chipped nail polish bring the breath of laughter; in adolescence, pomegranate lips, turntables, and love letters to other girls' boyfriends bring the breath of longing. Yet these breaths cannot be taken alone, and as she carries her childhood self through the broader historical space of Black girls in America, Hill is forced to grapple with expression in a space of stereotype, desire in a space of hyper-sexuality, joy in a space of heartache.
Paying homage to prominent Black female figures from Zora Neale Hurston to Whitney Houston and Toni Morrison, Breath Better Spent invites you to walk through this landscape, too, exploring the spaces—both visible and invisible—that Black girls occupy in the national imagination, taking in the communal breath of girlhood, and asking yourself: In a country like America, what does active love and protection of Black girls look like?
“[A] moving narrative-in-verse ode to the innocence, wonder and complexities of Black girlhood.”—Ms. Magazine
“Urgent . . . luminous . . . Between sparkling homages to famous Black women like Aretha Franklin and poems that proclaim and mourn the loss of missing and murdered Black girls, Hill situates her own reckoning with Black girlhood . . . readers are lucky to be with her in these outstanding pages.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)