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Cover of We Are Owed. poetry book by Ariana Brown. Cover art is a black woman standing in a mint green doorway. She is staring at the viewer and wrapped in pastel flowers.

Foreword by Alan Pelaez Lopez

Cover by Desiree Vaniecia

We Are Owed.

Published July 29, 2021

Grieveland Press

We Are Owed. is the debut poetry collection of Ariana Brown, exploring Black relationality in Mexican and Mexican American spaces. Through poems about the author’s childhood in Texas and a trip to Mexico as an adult, Brown interrogates the accepted origin stories of Mexican identity. We Are Owed. asks the reader to develop a Black consciousness by rejecting U.S., Chicano, and Mexican nationalism and confronting anti-Black erasure and empire-building.

As Brown searches for other Black kin in the same spaces through which she moves, her experiences of Blackness are placed in conversation with the histories of formerly enslaved Africans in Texas and Mexico. Esteban Dorantes, Gaspar Yanga, and the author’s Black family members and friends populate the book as a protective and guiding force, building the “we” evoked in the title and linking Brown to all other African-descended peoples living in what Saidiya Hartman calls “the afterlife of slavery.”


“Kamau Brathwaite, in The Lazarus Poems, writes: “so much undone to be undone.” And it is this very recovery work that runs through Ariana Brown’s urgent, beautiful, desiring We Are Owed. Hers is a poetics of restoration and relation. A “work on the words” that re-minds me with the lyric’s capacity to clarify, as with this moment when the kiss confronts (or is in tension with) the nation: “Quiero salir, salir, salir, / to love no nation, to kiss / my mirror with the mouth / I own.” In this book, Ariana Brown scrutinizes the isolations on which white supremacist ideology so brutally depends, and traces her particular Black consciousness to mark a route into kinship, unknowing, touch, “water / & the stories / we passed / through it.”

Aracelis Girmay

author of the black maria

“We Are Owed. is a ceremony written with a tender fury. Incisive and informed, this collection revisits and remembers ancestors and kin forgotten by relentless conquests and empire. A salve and a canto, Ariana Brown weaves together wonder, rage, and Black liberation to excavate new ways of being Black and Chicana that refuse mestizaje and its violent erasures, on both sides of the US/Mexico border. This collection offers a necessary meditation on Blackness in the borderlands and beyond."

Yomaira Figueroa-Vasquez

author of Decolonizing Diasporas

Teachers' Guide

Available as a free downloadable PDF.

Developed by Ariana Brown and Prof. Joshua Deckman.

Ideal for high school & college classrooms.

  • Key Themes

  • Discussion Questions

  • Paired Readings

  • Activities & Assignments

We Are Owed Teachers Guide first page.
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