ABSTRACT

Throughout her work, contemporary African-American poet Thylias Moss performs feats of poetic reimagining that challenge the assumed connection of collective memory and group history to racial identity—a connection that has recently received rigorous critique, particularly in Holocaust and trauma studies. Proposing what I call Moss’s “African-Americanization” of the Holocaust, and by contextualizing Moss’s work in the early 1990s phase of the “Americanization” of the Holocaust and drawing on Marianne Hirsch’s concept of postmemory, this article focuses on Moss’s Holocaust poems in order to grapple with her poetry’s disjunctive themes and collective histories. Exploding the logic of competitive victimhood, Moss’s poems show how African-American experience does not compete with but rather works as a mnemonic device for other traumatic histories and other genocides. Her unusual upbringing leads Moss to multiply connections across traumatic histories, collective memories, and African-American identity in her Holocaust poems, even playfully so through her grotesque and darkly comic figuration of events. Moss’s poems extend the reach of collective memory and racial identity, multiplying their possible relations against the backdrop of the Americanization of the Holocaust.

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