Lessons on Expulsion

by Erika L. Sánchez

“Skillful and striking. One of my new favorite poetry collections, Lessons on Expulsion is a beautiful debut work of history, womanhood and love.”Ms. Magazine

“Vibrant and superbly written. . . . [Lessons on Expulsion] offers an exploration of what it is to live, love, and suffer on this Earth. . . . This work is not to be missed.”Library Journal, starred review

“Sánchez negotiates an imaginative space between oral history and journalistic reportage. . . . Sánchez is as capable of intriguingly surrealist gestures . . . as of photographic depictions. . . . Throughout, a sense of menace pervades all the joyfully vivid detail.”Publishers Weekly

“[A] compelling debut. . . . Sánchez minces no words in challenging accepted notions of femininity, race, religion, and sexuality.”Booklist

“A rare one with phosphorescent night-powers & deep-fire mind tools, Erika L. Sánchez—here’s her ground-crackling first poetry volume. A prize-eater.”—Juan Felipe Herrera, US Poet Laureate


Lessons on Expulsion marks the arrival of a vital new voice in American poetry. With penetrating intelligence and lyrical precision, Erika L. Sánchez makes visible the violence striking down Mexican women living on the border and interrogates the historical and the familial origins of misogyny. Her deft braiding of the beautiful and the grotesque infuses her language with a shimmering rawness and a startling immediacy. Her gaze is unflinching and feminist; it marvels and questions and testifies. Lessons on Expulsion is an uncompromising and singular debut.”

— Eduardo C. Corral


“A book of squirming-busted-scab-human love pulp, of mad pulled-gooey goddess hair in the city of rats & dog men & at the center, ever-open mouths, sinking tongues & blistered lovers scalded in the black light of the Great Filth Eater, the last one standing on the inverted peak of a post-Mictlán, Aztec Underworld, where everything that is falling she upholds (& savors). Evicted from the absurd day-to-day agreements of cosmopolitan life, here is the melancholy devourer-purifier & drifter & philosopher of the only thing we can hold on to, the delights of smearing ourselves into ourselves & giving birth to & from ourselves—this is the underground candy of the flower-stomper & mother-breaker. Yet, something moves us—rage-hunger, rage-desire & rage-compassion. Question: in this compound of leeches & infected animals, are you that donkey? That scarred, knocked-down, obedient, beige animal, that humble one? ‘. . . a dark and trembling woman / undresses / and kneels before you.’ A rare one with phosphorescent night-powers & deep-fire mind tools, Erika L. Sánchez—here’s her ground-crackling first poetry volume. A prize-eater.”

— Juan Felipe Herrera


“Erika L. Sánchez writes with persistent care, awfully aware of the unfair play of power, sex, romantic exchange, and religion—at the end of one poem, a close moment between a sex worker and a narcotrafficker who idly thinks of the bodies he’s just been dropping in acid while gently tracing with his fingers the tattoo on her back. Sánchez is a poet who works as a journalist and scholar, and she uses what she learns about the poor, the women selling their bodies, and the immigrant going over the border. Reading Sánchez’s poems is like watching the world from a train, the exquisite rhythmic blend of the known and the unknown. The world remains always more than we can understand, yet suddenly, thanks to her great poetry, we are pierced by what we know.”

—Eileen Myles, judge for the “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize


Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
96 pages. $16.00 paperback
ISBN: 978-1-55597-778-8
Available: Graywolf Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Cellar, your favorite indie bookseller (please ask by author and title, please).

Erika L. Sánchez is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer. Her first collection of poetry is Lessons on Expulsion. Her young adult novel will be published in fall 2017, and her nonfiction has appeared in Al JazeeraThe GuardianRolling Stone, and many other publications. She has received a CantoMundo Fellowship, a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargeant Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. She is a 2017–2019 Princeton Arts Fellow.

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