Promises of Gold
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2023 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
Named one of NPR's Books We Love
“How many bad lovers have gotten poems? How many crushes? No disrespect to romantic love—but what about our friends ? Those homies who are there all along—cheering for us and reminding us that love is abundant.”
In this groundbreaking collection of poems, José Olivarez explores every kind of love—self, brotherly, romantic, familial, cultural. Grappling with the contradictions of the American Dream with unflinching humanity, he lays bare the ways in which “love is complicated by forces larger than our hearts.”
Whether readers enter this collection in English or via the Spanish translation by poet David Ruano González, these extraordinary poems are sure to become beloved for their illuminations of life—and love.
“¿Cuántas malas parejas han inspirado poemas? ¿Cuántos crush es? Sin faltarle el respeto al amor romántico—pero ¿qué hay de los amigos? Esos compas que están ahí todo el tiempo—animándonos y recordándonos que elamor es abundante”.
En esta innovadora colección de poemas, José Olivarez explora cada tipo de amor—el propio, fraternal, romántico, familiar, cultural. Lidiando con las contradicciones del sueño americano, con una humanidad inquebrantable, deja al descubierto las maneras en que “el amor se va complicando por fuerzas más grandes que nuestros corazones”.
Ya sea que los lectores entren a esta colección en inglés o a partir de la traducción al español del poeta David Ruano González, estos extraordinarios poemas serán amados seguramente por sus iluminaciones sobre el amor y la vida.
Praise for Promises of Gold
A USA Today Book Club Pick
Poetry selection for The Latinidad List — The Best Latino Books of 2023
Named one of USA Today's Best Books of 2023
“Glistening. . . . Olivarez elevates small but notable moments through a sensitive, introspective speaker who must learn tough lessons on the streets of Calumet City. . . Bilingual readers will enjoy flipping back and forth to see how the prism of each poem changes its hue in the light of another language.”
—Booklist starred review
“This book reads like an ode to people of color who are handed a broom, assumed to be the help, when in reality we are equal. He’s rewriting the history of colonization and challenging us to unlearn its impacts one poem at a time.”
"Promises of Gold is a uniquely bilingual celebration of life and the mundane. . . . While inspired by Olivarez's distinctly second-generation Mexican immigrant experiences, Promises of Gold expresses themes of hope, dreams, family, and friendship that can apply to anyone, regardless of their background."
—The Harvard Crimson
"Promises of Gold shows remarkable growth from Olivarez, who has quickly matured into one of the most important poets writing about living in diaspora as a second generation Mexican American."
—The Poetry Question
“The truth is: Technically, I don’t understand poetry. I never have. I miss everything in it. It’s a language I can’t process. And, for me anyway, that’s what makes Jose special. Because when he writes poetry, I don’t need to understand it—at least, not in the traditional sense—because I FEEL it. I feel his words under my fingertips like velvet. I feel his words in my chest like I’m looking at a painting that moves me in a way I can’t fully explain. And, again, for me anyway, that’s more important.”
—Shea Serrano, bestselling author of Hip Hop (And Other Things)
“Visceral and moving.”
—Kate Baer, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of What Kind of Woman
““My people I am poly with the tortillas” might be my favorite single sentence I have ever read in a poem. Get the book for that line alone. Promises of Gold is a heartfelt and hilarious series of odes to the large and small joys of life. It is also a battle rap and a clapback to all the death-making institutions we live under at every level. I could call this book soft and I would only be telling a half-truth. This is a collection that delights in the softness of every kind of love from familial to homie to culinary to romantic. But this is also a book that is hard on colonizers, and cruel billionaires, and capitalist exploitation. This book shines bright as the gold that got us into all this colonial mess.”
—Nate Marshall, author of Finna
“The best part about reading Olivarez’s work is that his language is cordial toward the reader. He is one of the few poets who uses accessible language, and everyone regardless of educational background can enjoy his poems."
“Details grounded in the everyday world capture great fulfillment. . . . The poet’s sensitive and insightful voice allows these stirring poems to successfully explore the forces acting on love in a complex world, and the unshakable promise of understanding and belonging.”
—Publishers Weekly starred review
"Olivarez primarily explores the presence and absence of love in Chicano and Mexican communities, creating sparkling, nostalgic portraits of family and friends. . . . He is able to pierce the culture, arriving straight at its heart."
—BookPage starred review
“Out of Calumet City, weighing in at around 160 plus Promises of Gold, in both English and Spanish, the one that’s poly with his tortillas, the masterfully playful, the uniquely imaginative, the one that bets everything he has on his people, the one, the only, José Olivarez is the undisputed Mexican champ. The cypher that straddles between dólares and dolores, this quintessential second collection has put Olivarez at the forefront of not only first-generation poetics, but of all poetry. This one here is for us—the ones who hide garden shears in their poems.”
—Javier Zamora, author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Solito
“This book pushes us to think beyond love as we’ve known it, as the overly romantic, always lighthearted love that’s been sold to us for generations. Instead, it shows us a map into loving at the end of the world, in isolation, in fear, when our backs are cornered to the wall. And still then, Olivarez chooses to love, to hope, to dream. This book is a necessary dream, one that is a gift to the world.”
—Fatimah Asghar, author of When We Were Sisters