On Christmas Day in 2017, author Christopher X. Shade's younger brother was found nonresponsive in rural Alabama, and died that night. With this book of poems, Shade's journey to better understand addiction and the loss of loved ones draws from both the world of his imagination and, in poignant poetic memoir, from his Alabama roots. This follows his 2019 debut novel The Good Mother of Marseille, its search for belonging through turbulent Marseille streets to a better understanding of ourselves. Shield the Joyousis deeply touching in its vulnerability and often entertaining. Mary and Joseph give 5-year-old Jesus an enormous pair of eyeglasses. Rice Krispies speak of death and resurrection. In North Alabama bottomlands, tall grasses long to protect ducks from hunters. And while paramedics wait in their parked ambulance for the next call, they try on each other's sunglasses. The book continues the thread of coming to understand ourselves by working to understand others. And a strong message of love and hope transcends what is happening in our families where the disease of addiction pulls us apart and kills our loved ones.
"Shield the Joyous is a work of great wonderment and love, amidst "the ghostly whirl" of the author's own grief and loss. His baby brother has died of addiction and there is so much to think about -- so into the deep quiet of a monastery he goes, where the gloom and majesty of memory and trouble surge and richly mix alongside the Hudson River and the swirl is able to illuminate, settle, calm. "I was elsewhere / when my brother died" -- but the writer is fully present now, to honor his sibling with so much care and tender thinking, that will help anyone who has ever lost anyone, now and forever, amen."
-- Naomi Shihab Nye, the Young People's Poet Laureate, and author or editor of over 30 volumes, most recently The Tiny Journalist