Memoirs tend to pack a punch when reliving one’s life on the page. Kendra Allen turns her heaviness into visceral writing in which vulnerability never abandons you but empowers you. The same could be said about Allen’s collection of essays, When You Learn the Alphabet, where life’s balance derives from the ability to unlearn and restore. Her most recent poetry collection, The Collection Plate, explores the erasure of underrepresented bodies and emphasizes the entwined experience of girlhood, blackness, sex, and personhood in America. Fruit Punch: A Memoir is an original masterpiece written by one of the world’s most observant writers. Allen’s voice will carry readers with every compelling moment.
A voice of her generation, Kendra Infinite Allen has planted her seeds as a poet, storyteller, and essayist. Kendra Allen was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She released her first collection of essays When You Learn the Alphabet, in which she won the 2018 Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction. By combining personal experience with cultural commentary, Allen provides a space to discuss the influence of the relationship between parent and daughter. Specifically, Allen confronts how parental conditioning informs social issues relating to colorism, feminism, marriage, etc. She embraces the necessary experiences of unlearning certain notions and restoring others. When You Learn the Alphabet provides immense empathy for black bodies to acknowledge the pain that often goes uncared for black women and girls. She offers such readers the space not only to be recognized but listened to in order to grow past their pains. Allen is a flower that continues to bloom despite the storm and encourages us to do the same.
As a poet, Allen’s words are all-encompassing. Her debut poetry collection, The Collection Plate, is a prime example of her strengths as a writer. Another great use of personal narrative and cultural commentary, Allen writes these poems from the heart of her observations in the world. In an interview with The Paris Review, Allen shares how she picks a title and writes a complete thing around it – not the other way around like most poets. The title of the collection itself was birthed from this process as she states, “I grew up in my great-uncle’s Baptist church, so I was thinking about the things that we are given and that we give away. I’ve seen people take things out of actual collection plates in church.”
A mere exchange inspires a whole encompassing idea of conversation, something she has proven to be an expert in. The Collection Plate reveals the looping ties with “beauty and brutality to be found between mothers and daughters, young women and the world, Black bodies and white space, virginity and intrusion, prison and freedom, birth and death.” Allen’s lyricism and emotional portrait of experience inspire readers to explore how we collectively collect or erase voices, and how we must replace historical boundaries with equal space.
Beyond her exquisite storytelling and electric poetry, Kendra Allen has great taste in music. Some may not know that Allen is inspired by lyrics that keep her poetry flowing. She also shared with The Paris Review that she “would create prompts out of song lyrics. So music has sustained me with something to write about. I can always find a line in any song and make a prompt out of it and apply it to my own life.” Many of us relate to certain song lyrics that capture exactly how we feel. In addition, I encourage you to read some poetry. It’s just as powerful. Just ask Kendra Allen. Kendra Allen writes for the music column “Make Love in My Car” for Southwest Review. If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can find some of her playlists here. Readers can find her other works on Repeller, High Times, Poetry Daily, The Paris Review, Frontier, and The Rumpus.
Fruit Punch: A Memoir
Kendra Allen proves to be a one-of-a-kind voice in her stunning memoir, Fruit Punch: A Memoir. Before reading her memoir, be prepared to feel heartbreak at its very core and the high possibility of never being able to put the book down. Although life comes with difficulties, Allen turns pain into validation for those seeking to be seen in their darkest moments. You can find yourself again despite the chaos. Fruit Punch exhibits themes like childhood, religion, family, and identity, all familiar to her previous work. The memoir is an honest coming-of-age story as a young black girl finds her way to womanhood in a world that often has the deck stacked against her. She reflects on the complicated relationship with her family while commenting on societal issues at large. Kendra Allen is a unique and admirable voice for a generation of new writers and poets beckoning to be heard. She reminds us that growth can be our greatest strength.
What Can We Expect?
According to publisher Harper Collins, the memoir synopsis is as follows:
“An arresting and one-of-a-kind memoir about the alternately exultant and harrowing trip growing up as a Black child desperate to create a clear reality for herself in this country.
Written in a distinctive voice and filled with personality, humor, and pathos, Fruit Punch is a memoir unlike any other, from a one-of-a-kind millennial talent. Growing up in Dallas, Texas, in the nineties and early 2000s, Kendra Allen had a complicated, loving, and intense family life filled with desire and community but also undercurrents of violence and turmoil. ‘We equate suffering to perseverance and misinterpret the weight of shame,’ she writes. As she makes her way through a world of obscureness, Kendra finds herself slowly discovering outlets to help navigate growing up and against the expected performance of being a young Black woman in the South—a complex interplay of race, class, and gender that proves to be ever-shifting ground.
Fruit Punch touches on everything from questions of beauty and how we form concepts of ourselves—as a small rebellion, young Kendra scratched a hole into every pair of stockings she was forced to wear—to what it means to grow up in her great uncle’s Southern Baptist church—with rules including ‘No uncrossed ankles’ and ‘No questions.’ Inflected by a powerful sense of place and touched by poetry, Fruit Punch is a stunning achievement—a memoir born of love and endurance, fight or flight, and what it means to be a witness, from a blisteringly honest and observant voice.”
Where Can I Order?
Fruit Punch: A Memoir is officially available for readers to order online and purchase today in stores, on August 9, 2022. Make sure to add Kendra Allen’s illuminating memoir to your TBR list, and check out some of her other works! If you’re a music lover, listen to some of her curated playlists. Kendra Allen is a one-of-a-kind voice you won’t want to miss out on this year and in her future works to follow.
If you’re looking for new memoirs coming out this year, keep reading here!