Emily Pérez’s House of Sugar, House of Stone weaves Grimm’s Fairy Tales into the business of modern life—laptops and late nights with sleepless children—to explore an undercurrent of terror about living in a family. These poems slip between the worlds of the wolf-haunted forest and the harried house of the contemporary artist/parent, until the two blend and bleed into each other. Children learn not to trust their parents, while simultaneously yearning to win back their affections. Parents similarly question their own trustworthiness as protectors. They are devoured by children, which leaves them equally apt to dismember a lion to protect their young as they are to leave those children alone in the woods. These musical, emotionally ruthless pieces occasionally find respite, but Pérez reminds us that despite our best efforts to map our way to safety: “Either way // you’re lost. Either way / you’ll wander into deeper woods.”
“The music here, combined with the familiar motifs (which morph and enlarge under the spell of this poet), forges lines and images and narrative—both tantalizingly fragmented and satisfyingly complete—of genuine power. The collection pairs story with song, specifics with innuendo, in such a compelling way that I dare anyone to read the first poem and put this book back down. This is something strange and new—and very exciting.” —Laura Kasischke
“House of Sugar, House of Stone draws heavily on Grimms’ timeless fairy tales to tell its story, but Pérez casts the themes of motherhood, betrayal, and longing in a light that is unmistakably contemporary. The effect is powerful and devastating.” —Blas Falconer
“Emily Pérez knows how to cast a spell. In this smart, brave book, she uses her honed musicality to enchant the reader while she plumbs the great domestic mysteries: How do you wed and stay a self? How do you both procreate and create? The dark forests of Grimms’ fairy tales pulse through her poems. By the time you leave the wilderness of her singing, you will have been changed. Home will never look the same again.” —Sasha West
"Made and Unmade holds “no hyperbole,” delivering tension-filled, vivid, dynamically written poems that convey the experiences of “the woman / who stood beside the beast”—an everywoman readers will recognize in themselves and in the women around them if they’re paying enough attention. Her experiences performing physical and mental acrobatics to avoid ill treatment, including violence; her witnessing the casual, habitual diminishment of other women and feeling it herself; the impositions and insults and cruelties the world and mostly men take for granted that she will keep taking, taking in, and “Because a woman’s word / can never be never proof,” holding the proof within herself, in a body treated as a site of damage and trying hard to refuse that inscription, a body that wants to believe in its accomplished beauty. The speaker in these poems asks: “can you be considerate or careful can / you care fully for your self can you hold yourself” — and no easy answers exist. The asking is a cultivated habit of reaching toward acceptance, but living with the truth that it may never arrive, except from within. Perez asks us to see that truth clearly, to live with what’s hardest to take."
"To read Emily Pérez’s poetry is to enter the house, familiar and safe, then to hear the house being dismantled around you. It’s understood that the rule of the house is to sing as every page gives way to sonic play through story, lyric, and the myth of what it is to un/become a woman. Pérez assembles her speaker’s many facets (mother, poet, wife, niece, sister, citizen, daughter) into “a string / of hand-clasped paper dolls,” which portends the fragility it wrests against. She begins, “Because you’ve heard this before, where boys will be / beasts and girls will be / cloth, torn to ribbons” then the poet offers the reader a glimpse of what gets clawed and tattered as each poetic line becomes a stitch for the mending. "
"Emily Pérez’s Made and Unmade offers a sharp and intimate assessment of American domestic life, considering in stark detail not only the difficulties of raising children in a world “where boys will be / beasts and girls will be / cloth, torn to ribbons / tied tightly in knots or in bows,” but also the broader complexities, negotiations, and compromises of marriage and middle age. Full of subtle and virtuosic formal play, these poems are consistently sad, smart, apt, and unflinching. I’m chastened by them—and grateful for them."
Backyard Migration Route constructs an American consciousness through a series of delicately tuned lyrics. Hybridity and border crossing are not so much examined as created by these interlocking poems, which refuse to lock into a single culture, a single ethnicity, a fixed identity or a mapped landscape. The brilliance and complexity of this collection of "inbetweeness" lies in its deft ownership of a landscape’s history, a father’s anxiety, a culture’s racism, an unaccented name, just for starters.
--Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen, An American Lyric
Informed by sound, formed in the mind, Backyard Migration Routetraces the landscape of the American West. Autobiography, geography, literary criticism and even mathematics weave together. School yourself with these far-ranging poems about growing up between languages and cultures.
—Kazim Ali, author of The Far Mosque and Bright Felon
"The burn must be my voice, the words / I cannot say." And so Emily Perez "writ[es] it all down" in what feels like a compact family epic. The vivid language, tightly woven, and the inventive use of rhyme make for a marriage of subject and form where ambivalence toward one’s "heritage" seems to be an undercurrent of tension—one where the poet "entwine[s] two parts of [a] nation." At its core, then, Backyard Migration Route is a story of mestizaje. That is, a quintessential American poem.
—Francisco Aragón, author of Puerta del Sol, editor of The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry