Publication Date:  March 1, 2020
Paperback, 144 pages
ISBN:  978-1-937968-61-8

Booksellers:  Available from
Small Press Distribution

$24.00 retail, or
when you order directly from
Broadstone Books, below
A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee,
Grace C. Ocasio’s second full-length
volume of poetry,
Family Reunion,
received honorable mention in the
Quercus Review Press Fall 2017 Book
Award Contest. She also placed as a
finalist in the 2016 Aesthetica Creative
Writing Award in Poetry and was a
recipient of the 2014 North Carolina
Arts Council Regional Artist Project
Grant. Her first full-length collection,
The Speed of Our Lives, was published
by BlazeVOX Books in 2014. She has
published poetry in
Rattle, Court Green,
Black Renaissance Noire, The Chaffin
, Minerva Rising, and many
other journals. Her chapbook,
from This Shack
, was published by
Ahadada Books in 2009.

Ocasio is a member of the Carolina
African American Writers’ Collective,
Family reunions are special occasions, a time for connections, reflections, for meeting
new members, remembering those no longer with us, more than a little gossip (a good
reason not to miss one if you don’t want to be the one talked about!) and (mostly)
good-natured kidding, occasional recriminations and grievances aired or confined to
knowing side glances, and perhaps most importantly, the chance to pass on and keep
alive the history and lore of the family from one generation to the next. Grace C.
Family Reunion is all of these things, and in reading this book we are
privileged guests at just such an event, invited to hear the stories of her relatives
across multiple generations. Because this is an account of an African-American
family, it is necessarily in part a chronic
le of racism and injustice and thus a
contribution to the poetry of documentary witness. There are moments of tragedy
(a child permanently brain damaged by being dropped by a nurse at birth) and
indignity (a woman denied a PhD by Harvard because of her race), but also triumphs
(one man becomes a celebrated physician, and many in the family graduate from
college and go on to successful professional careers – including the author). These
poems speak candidly of the experience of being Black in America.

But that is not all that they do. What they reveal most of all is how this one family’s
story manages to be both uniquely their own
and simultaneously universal, because
we can all recognize ourselves and our own messy histories in these pages, whatever
our race or origin. We’ve all encountered
that uncle, that grandmother in our own
families; we’ve heard the lectures (or given them ourselves) on hair and clothing,
behavior and expectations, the suitability of suitors, all the friction at generational
boundaries. Now, more than ever, we need to be reminded that we are all one family
– however dysfunctional. To say that Ocasio does this with
grace may be an obvious
pun, but it is also the truth.

The book ends with a brief prose account of a family reunion that is hilariously
chaotic, leaving the author with “hysteria welling in my throat.”  Well,
that’s family
for you!  But what a treat it is to get to know this one.

Praise for Grace C. Ocasio & Family Reunion

Not a history, not a photographic album, not a scrapbook; this book is, as the title
directs, a family reunion. A gathering of extended family, a congregation of individual
people whose stories inscribe pivotal points in the narrator’s life. Packed with hard
truths and disquieting observations, Grace Ocasio’s
Family Reunion is an intimate,
unapologetic discussion. Detailing tenacious, heartbreaking, resilient, tender recitals,
these brilliant poems shine a light on the ties that bind a family while also making us
consider who we are amongst the people we love, live. In small moments of devotion,
moments of privation, memories of death and moments frozen in memories of protests,
we understand many spheres of existence. Through marriages, motherly knowing,
garden parties, and even washing dishes we discover the foundations of a life fortified
through the heartache, pain, growth, and transformation scaffolded around an unsafe
world. This is a brilliant book; I urge to you read it.

                           —Geoffrey Gatza, author of
Apollo and
A Dog Lost in the Brick City of Outlawed Trees

“Show me how to play my hands like an overture to a ballet.” Over and over again, in
her second collection,
Family Reunion, Grace Ocasio invites the reader to become
voyeur to an honest unraveling of identity and personal perspective.
Family Reunion
reminds us that the well-traveled heart always returns home and so does the poet in
her presentation of a journey that dives into the depths of the human condition…  
personal loss, love, dreaming, redemption, and reclaiming. Each line is measured with
metaphorical precision, reminding us that every emotion is valid. These poems are
powerful whispers, incantations, and benedictions. Grace Ocasio weaves spirit-
charged and relevant heirlooms into a historical tapestry that spreads memory beyond
constructs of elusive time and space. Her execution of well-honed poetics delivers
seasons of unmatched skins, out-of-step footsteps, ripe whimsy, and unmeasurable
sorrow. The distinct unpretentious sensibility of
Family Reunion proclaims, amplifies,
and sharpens our imaginations.

                                   ––Jaki Shelton Green, Poet Laureate of North Carolina

A documentary in verse, Grace Ocasio’s
Family Reunion details one family’s history
as America’s past and present in a beauty rare and emotionally heart-felt.
is an aria of accuracy and promise.

                           —Shelby Stephenson, Former Poet Laureate of North Carolina

Family Reunion, Grace Ocasio has written a nuanced, multigenerational history of
a family rooted in North Carolina, but with branches elsewhere. Its griefs and joys are
intensified by the way this family’s progress mirrors African-American history. In a
verse both spare and musical, Ocasio brings before us a hard-striving family that
entered the middle class at a time when that was very difficult. A fine attention to
detail helps us understand that Ocasio’s speaker, Gloria, hopes for illumination from
her grandmother Cloris: “I wish you could take my hands. / Tell me if my hands are
skimming oceans or orchids.” The goals are hard-won, and the strong women of this
family, drawn with both respect and humor, do not let anyone forget. Central is
Gloria’s grandmother, whom she wishes she had known: “What I always wanted to
tell you / I can’t tell / because my words drown in my mouth’s river.”

                                   ––Cammy Thomas, author of
Cathedral of Wish,
                                           winner of the 2006 Norma Farber First Book Award
                                           from the Poetry Society of America

On her performance poetry:

Grace Ocasio’s performance is Shakespearean in its scope.

                                    ––Benjamin Pressley,
                                    Doris Betts Spring Literary Festival Coordinator
                                    Mitchell Community College English and Religion Instructor

On her poetics:

Grace Ocasio is a powerful Black Southern poetic voice.

                                     ––The Friends of the Waccamaw Library

Grace C.
and recently served as an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of
North Carolina at Charlotte.

You can connect with Grace Ocasio at:

To listen to a podcast interview with Grace C. Ocasio, including poems from Family
, click here.