Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: Personal Essays & Poems
Arte Publico Press, April 2018

 Artwork By: Esperanza Gama

Artwork By: Esperanza Gama

For Jasminne Méndez, pericardial effusion and pericarditis are not just an abnormal accumulation of fluid and increased inflammation around the heart. It’s what happens “when you stifle the tears and pain of a miscarriage, infertility and chronic illness for so long that your heart does the crying for you until it begins to drown because its tears have nowhere to go.”

Diagnosed with scleroderma at 22 and lupus just six years later, her life becomes a roller coaster of doctor visits, medical tests and procedures. Staring at EKG results that look like hieroglyphics, she realizes that she doesn’t want to understand them: “The language of a life lived with chronic illness is not something I want to adapt to. I cannot let this hostile vocabulary hijack my story.”

The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Méndez fought for independence against her overly-protective parents, obtaining a full scholarship to college, a dream job after school and a master’s degree shortly thereafter. But the full-time job with medical insurance doesn’t satisfy her urge to write and perform, so she leaves it in search of creative fulfillment. In this stirring collection of personal essays and poetry, Méndez shares her story, writing about encounters with the medical establishment, experiences as an Afro Latina and longing for the life she expected but that eludes her.

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Praise for Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: 

"Méndez offers a sharp and honest portrayal of what it means to navigate the strange corridors of being diagnosed with chronic illnesses as a young woman... Her stories are at once gripping and achingly generous as she lays her life bare and dissects what it means to be 'Woman enough to wear the color of blood and fire without fear and without trepidation.'" —Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X

"... I
n her glorious book Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e, Méndez speaks her truth: an empowering journey of resilience, perseverance and the bittersweet wisdom that comes from being the woman who has had to 'learn to suck the nectar out of sorrow.'" Rigoberto González, author of What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth

"Jasminne Méndez is a gift. End stop. In Night Blooming Jasmin(n)e you will find what no residency or workshop can teach: self-examination. Her writer's  eye is unrelenting and compassionate. Where there are hereditary and genetic dispositions to blame, there are healings and epiphanies to celebrate. Using a fierce remedy of flash essays, personal narratives, poetry and musings, Méndez becomes our healer.  Truly born of her blood, this book is a beautiful achievement, a lasting testament to a spirit that emerged bruised, scarred but alive and ready to sing." —Willie Perdomo, author of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon

"Jasminne Méndez’s words are at once incandescent and scathing. Her storytelling illumines the travails and the tenacity of a body bound to—and unbound by—place, illness and history."  Barrie Jean Borich, author of Apocalypse, Darling and Body Geographic

"
These conversational, frank essays allow the reader into a life filled with love and family, but also incredible hardship, heartbreak and resilience. And the poems, woven wild as sprays of jasmine into the text, are, like the flower, sharp and flint-bright as stars, and vulnerable as its petals. Mendez is a bold, necessary voice from long-neglected intersections of experience. And, thank goodness, she has arrived." Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, author of Beast Meridian

 


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Island of Dreams
Floricanto Press, November 2013
 

Winner of a 2015 Latino International Book Award: Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book

In "Island of Dreams," author Jasminne Méndez addresses these questions and their complicated answers in a multi-genre memoir that effortlessly blends poems and short stories to offer a glimpse into the challenges, joys, hopes, fears and disappointments she and her family faced being Dominican in America. Her work explores everything from the love/hate relationship she had with her hair and her mother, to the many memorable but sometimes unpleasant family vacations and holidays she shared with her parents, siblings, primos, tíos, y tías. These captivating stories and poems are about family, food, love, culture, self-discovery, assimilation, and the American dream. They are about a young girl who respects the richness and abundance of her cultural history, but who struggles to form her own identity because her Dominican values conflict with her American self and all she wants to do is find a place to call home.

Praise for Island of Dreams
 

"Join memoir-writer Jasminne Mendez in this luscious recalling of her family’s multi-faceted sojourn of family ties and their meaning, glorious cooking and eating, belonging and not belonging, and so many other complicated forays into the storied past." - Sarah Cortez 

"Jasminne builds bridges between many worlds. Her potent voice conjures images of the Dominican Republican, Texas, Houston, the world... She code-switches so brilliantly that you don't notice that she has jumped from Spanish to English to Spanglish to universal themes and back. Her work not only stands up on the page but takes on new meaning with potency, shattering barriers, breaking borders. This book will boggle your mind and thrill you." - Tony Diaz

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