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ISBN: 978-1-62557-083-3
Categories Nomadic, Poetry

Return Against the Flow

Publication Date: February 2024


In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. Return Against the Flow was originally selected for publication by Nomadic.

Return Against the Flow by Susana Praver-Pérez is a memoir-in-verse that travels back and forth between Puerto Rico and its diaspora, much like the island’s pattern of circular migration over the years. Reflecting her personal journey across geographies and languages, Susana’s poems move between English and Spanish, and capture the tempo of ambient sounds, such as drumbeats of bomba, or a black-plumed chango chirping at dawn. She unflinchingly explores the daily struggles Puerto Rico faces, while exuberantly celebrating the island’s culture, its peoples, and the concept of “return”. This is a  voyage via words the reader will remember long after turning the last page.


“Born with a birthmark shaped like Borinquen,” Susana Praver-Pérez’s poems are “oraciones with a Nuyorican spin” that balance the timeless love for her husband, her rematriated home in Puerto Rico and the people she deems family on the point of her pen. Her poems remind us that like pegao, the rice that is scraped from the bottom of the pan, to be Boricua is a delicacy and that Puerto Ricans on the archipelago and across the diaspora chant their names to celebrate the roll of an “ r ” like a talisman, wear manchas de plátano as balm, and are blessed with strong backbones that “keep us from breaking.” 
—Peggy Robles-Alvarado, poet, educator, performance artist,literary organizer, and initiated priestess in the Lukumi and Palo traditions

Return Against the Flow is a countersong that imagines a collective future beyond the death-flow of disaster capital. In lines that compress and unfold on the page, Praver-Pérez decenters the voices of developers and colonial apologists to amplify those of mothers, neighbors, storytellers, and with them, the bomba drums of an archipelago and its many diasporas across Puerto Rico, New York, Oakland, and beyond. In the spirit of Aimé Césaire, the author invokes poetry as a revolutionary knowledge that allows us to name the “collapsing scaffold of the past” and “to see through / twisted histories” so we can “become an ocean, buoy the future.”

—Urayoán Noel, poet, performer, translator, and professor at NYU and Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas

Return Against the Flow is both a love letter to a fractured island, Puerto Rico, and a detailed study of identity politics. This collection of poems is a loving tribute to shared memories of loss, and the hope that stems from observing and experiencing a sense of place that is both familiar and new. Property woes, family and homage to island poets, musicians, and special spaces in the neighborhood, all flow in Susana Praver-Pérez’s work. It is a moving experience to read the work so delicately crafted.

—Lydia (Puchi) Platón, professor at the University of Puerto Rico, artist, curator, and one of co-the founders of Taller Comunidad La Goyco in Santurce, P.R

Wanderings and reverie, memory and searching for a place to call home in the aftermath of Hurricane María, Susana Praver-Pérez turns to poetry. Through intertextuality and in conversation with the works of other poets and writers de aquí y de allá, these poems weave and stitch together moments of solace, joy, and healing.

—Vanessa Pérez-Rosario, professor at Queens College, editor, translator, and author of Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon

We are daughters of diasporas. In Return Against the Flow, Susana Praver-Pérez invites us on a journey across seas, weaving her poems with other voices, rhythms, flavors, and images that seem to draw a map on her body with an ancestral force. With eyes wide open, she finds magic in life’s daily experiences and faces the challenges of making a home in our colonized, Afro-Caribbean Borikén. Above all, this journey is an affirmation of the power of love beyond life.

—Dr. Mariluz Franco-Ortiz, professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey, and member of Colectivo Ilé

Reading Susana Praver-Pérez’s poems brings forth the sense that you’re returning from a long journey, walking side by side with a friend. She fills your absences with color, sound, and imagery, like flavor on the page. Comfort and familiarity resonate in this book. She makes you feel at home in her words. She does not disappoint.

—Lady Lee Andrews, poet, artist, and proprietor of “The Poets’ Passage” in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

About the Author

Susana Praver-Pérez

Susana Praver-Pérez is a Pushcart-nominated poet and a winner of the San Francisco/Nomadic Press Literary Award (2021). Susana’s first full-length collection of poetry Hurricanes, Love Affairs, and Other Disasters, was published by Nomadic Press in 2021 and won the 2022 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award. Her second full-length collection, Return Against the Flow, is slated to be published by Black Lawrence Press in early 2024. Susana divides her time between Oakland, California and San Juan, Puerto Rico and writes through the lens formed in the liminal space between languages, cultures, and geographies.

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