Well I finished Lemn Sissay’s My Name Is Why today and immediately fell apart. I grieved this book. I grieved this childhood. A memoir about his theft in infancy from his Ethiopian mother’s care in a “home” for young mothers in rural England, through his failed white foster placement, and then through various boy’s “homes” until his own ingenuity springs him from the system, this is really a memoir about a beautiful boy who sows poetry from seeds of racism, and neglect, and abuse, and torture. The art in this book was multitudinous, but for me it was primarily twofold. In the one instance Sissay gets all of his documents as a ward of the state from birth to adulthood, and he intersperses physical copies of these in the linear story of his life, interpreting them as he writes, highlighting how bureaucracy steals the love that should shape every childhood, and also steals the truths that young Sissay experiences. Through this he demonstrates how semantics turn regular childhood actions into problematic behaviours, and how it erases the violence inflected on his young body. And then, secondly, Sissay writes with the honestly, the brightness, the kindness, and the hurt of a young child, which screams out the absurdity and inherent cruelty of a system that separates a child from any promise of love and attachment. He takes bureaucratic language and turns it on it’s head with his truth. The actual poetry in this book is so spare and says so much, I was transformed. I can’t say enough what a visual experience this was. And what a visceral one. My breath was taken away more than once, and I held my children closer every day I picked up this book. A memoir for the ages, I can only hope that Sissay writes the rest of his life for us as well.