Review & Reflection: Milk & Honey
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
You know when you pack two books for a flight how you never read the second book? (Seriously, 99% of the time, you can save your carry-on the extra space for snacks.) I'm a quick reader, but rarely does one novel even get finished during travel. People watching and sleeping are all too tempting alternatives. Well, on my flight to San Fran for work, I was halfway through my latest Kurt Vonnegut (Player Piano), so I dared to pack along a second read. (I also packed a third in my check-in bag, East of Eden, which I actually knocked out 150 pages on my flight back home. Scandalous.) And, my heart was sure happy that I did. Traveling to San Fran on my 26th birthday (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017) had a double meaning for me. I was beyond excited to see the Golden Gate city and attend Dreamforce, Salesforce's major conference of the year. But, in addition, 10 years prior to the day, (yes, on my Sweet 16) my family and I were flying home from San Fran after visiting family and the city while my dad attended a work conference. Part of me felt proud of myself to be jet setting on my own work conference to San Fran a mere 10 years after my dad. I seem to follow in his leftover footprints more than I care to, so it wasn't exactly serendipitous. And that caused another part of my inner being to feel quite uneasy, a little sad. It was due to this coincidence that I decided that my heart and mind needed a little self-care and reflection. I found that within milk and honey.
The poetry novel, milk and honey by Rupi Kaur takes the reader through the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing. It's a four-part collection of biographical poems paired with illustrations that delivers an empowering and impactful female perspective of abuse and self-love, of pain and growth.
While I always want to make it clear that I was never physically abused, emotional abuse permeated the walls in my household growing up, especially the eight years following my 14th year until my father passed. I cannot relate to all of Kaur's experiences, but most women, if not all, will be able to strongly identify with the isolating and numbing fears of society's molestations and demeaning repression towards females. Within the first section of the poetry works, I knew my heart and hidden memories were in for a roller coaster ride of veracity. "He was supposed to be the first male love of your life; you still search for him everywhere - father," Rupi Kaur, milk and honey.
Taking a walk with Kaur through these four stages of her life felt natural. Her words were clear and honest, containing no apologies or reluctance, while not stooping to shock value techniques. She writes about the female body, sexuality, emotional turmoil, pleasure, and desolation without stopping to doubt her thoughts or sensor her experiences. A few might find the illustrations or diary entry-esque recounts of sex to be graphic. But, to them I say stop hiding from or being ashamed of all the pleasures and pains that exist within you, within us all.
In her lowest points, Kaur shines her bedroom light for the reader to view strewn Kleenexes and days spent in bed in contempt; to watch and playback our own memories of the mistakes of letting that one person open the door into your room once more. And, worst of all, of the silence that follows when you should be screaming. In her self-discovery moments, Kaur doesn't bandage her wounds, but heals them from the inside out. She takes the reader down the jagged and rocky path of not only accepting all that is you, but all that is another individual, regardless of who you want them to be in your mind. The reader discovers their one true love as Kaur does between the lines of her poetry.
"If you are not enough for yourself you will never be enough for someone else," Rupi Kaur, milk and honey. We find partner soulmates. We find friend soulmates. But, your one, true soulmate exists within yourself. It's you.
At the end of this work, Kaur thanks the reader for walking through her journey alongside her; for opening the book and thus opening up Kaur's private moments and deepest understandings. While finishing the journey, I came to quite a resonating end to a chapter of my own story. "You have to stop searching for why at some point you have to leave it alone," Rupi Kaur, milk and honey. As I took an Uber to my swanky San Fran AirBnb, my mind felt rested and my body calm from spending airplane solitude with milk and honey. The work took me 45 minutes to 1 hour to get through slowly to soak up all the depth, and it's an hour or less of your time that I recommend spending with Kaur. Fortunate for me, my evening continued to improve and did transition towards serendipitous. My dad has cousins still living in San Fran. I spent my 26th birthday dinner with one of them, his cousin's wife, and one of their children, who is only slightly younger than myself. Reuniting with my San Fran family made the trip special and uplifting. To be back visiting them after 10 years made me hope that I never spend that long away from the stunning city and their warmth again.