Review by Akane Sturtevant
Marianne Chan, All Heathens
Sarabande Books, 2020.
All Heathens by Marianne Chan navigates history, the present, Filipino culture, and family to describe the meaning of home. Chan grew up in many different places such as Stuttgart, Germany; Lansing, Michigan; and the Philippines, and her poems take place in these areas of the world, borrowing from the culture and the language to chart the diaspora of her family as well as giving voice to the Asian American experience.
Chan’s poems hold a quiet kind of beauty, using imagery to reflect on their topics, like in “Elegy for your Master” and “On Buzz Aldrin’s Birthday.” However, even with this beauty, there is still strength as she comments on the injustices of being Filipino throughout history, ranging from Magellan’s exploration of the Philippines to the poet’s present in America with “Some Words of the Aforesaid Heathen Peoples” and “When the Man at the Party Said He Wanted to Own a Filipino.” Chan’s poems offer her audience an inside look as she processes the injustices that seem to circumnavigate time, and how the pattern of ownership of people of color in some shape or form still weaves itself into the present.
All Heathens is a raw and powerful read for those who are still navigating their own place in this world and the role they play in history.
Marianne Chan is the author of All Heathens, which was the winner of the 2021 GLCA New Writers Award in Poetry and the 2021 Ohioana Book Award in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, New England Review, Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Between 2017-2019, she served as poetry editor for Split Lip Magazine. Chan grew up in Stuttgart, Germany, and Lansing, Michigan. After she earned her B.A. in English from Michigan State University, she went on to study poetry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she earned her MFA.
Akane Sturtevant is a senior at Albion College, studying Creative Writing and Communication Studies. She has previously been published in The Albion Review and Mosaic. In her free time, she is busy reading, writing, and trying not to die.