The Riot Inside Me:

More Trial and Tremors

  • Wanda Coleman: winner of the Poetry Society of America’s 2012 Shelley Memorial Award!

In this, her second collection of nonfiction prose, Wanda Coleman continues the project she began in Native in a Strange Land (1996), a project she once described as “a tour through the restless emotional topography of Los Angeles as glimpsed through scattered fragments of my living memory.” It is a sometimes antic tour, with unforgettable commentary – Coleman’s “intermittent outcries, moans, shouts, and jubilations along the route.”

The Riot Inside Me once again finds the author at the bloody crossroads where art and politics, the personal and the political, and L.A. and the larger world meet and trade blows before resuming their separate paths. The 26 pieces gathered here – a “hopscotch” of essays, memoirs, interviews, and reports – are divided into four sections. One collects autobiographical pieces, including a haunting memoir of her first husband, a moth drawn to the flames of the more extreme forms of ’60s radicalism. Another section is reserved for polemics, mainly issues of Black & White; a third collects Coleman’s now famous “bad” review of Maya Angelou’s “Song Flung Up to Heaven” – “the most controversial piece I’ve yet written” – and a caustically funny report on its fallout. The book concludes with a group of essays on race, class, and poetry: pieces that one critic called “sardonic when it comes to politics and groups [but] tender and hopeful when it comes to individuals.”

Coleman is best known for her ‘warrior voice.’ [But her] voice too can weep elegiac, summoning memories of childhood’s neighborhoods – her South L.A.’s wild-frond palms, the smog-smear of pre-ecology consciousness. Her voice hits notes as desperate as Billie Holiday’s tours of sorrow’s more desolate stretches. But it can also land a wily punch line as solid as that of a stand-up comic.
Los Angeles Times

Satire and journalism are alive and well in L.A., at least when Coleman is doing the biting and the reporting.” So is art, and so, of course, is truth.
Publishers Weekly

Wanda Coleman – poet, storyteller and journalist – was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. She is the recipient of grants from the Guggenheiim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was awarded the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Bathwater Wine and was a bronze-medal finalist for the 2001 National Book Award for Poetry for Mercurochrome.