August 2022

Fruit Punch

By Kendra Allen
Review by
Fruit Punch is a startling, unique and deeply poetic meditation on sexuality and violence. Kendra Allen is a writer on the rise.
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Poet Kendra Allen’s Fruit Punch is a sensitive and lyrical collage of the sexuality and violence she experienced during her Dallas childhood. Writing in masterfully composed vignettes as vivid and fleeting as real memories, Allen excavates the anger, powerlessness and wonder she experienced as a young Black girl learning to navigate the world. 

Radiating from Fruit Punch‘s center is a hauntingly precise meditation on the body, as Allen celebrates the vibrancy of childhood play alongside the many ways this joy can be, and was, squashed when she was sexually abused by a family member. It’s a skillful observation of how Black female bodies are hypersexualized, objectified and aggressed starting in childhood. Allen’s mother, L.A., also survived this pattern and feared it would repeat with her own children. Allen writes about how, when she was 9, “L.A. gets terrified for me this year; fearing for my whereabouts and making sure to ask me about my body and who is touching it or had it already been touched.”

What makes Fruit Punch truly dazzling is how Allen hunts for the slippery traces of celebration amid the visceral pain of girlhood. This is not a straightforward lamentation of trauma and the loss of innocence but a fully rendered vision of childhood’s many facets. In that sense, her words both disrupt and sparkle. She doesn’t only experience fear; she also dances in laundromats to Brandy and Britney Spears and breaks the rules of her great-great-uncle’s “No uncrossed ankles / No questions” Southern Baptist church.

Inside this turmoil is Allen’s inescapable sense of irony. As she discusses her childhood abuse for the first time, she shares the fears she has for the next generation: “Especially now since it’s a lot of lil girls in my family. I be scared for them. For they voices. But I had more fun times than not for sure.” Fruit Punch is a startling, unique and deeply poetic work from a writer on the rise.

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Fruit Punch

Fruit Punch

By Kendra Allen
ISBN 9780063048539

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