Nickole Brown (Photo by Joli Livaudais)

Nickole Brown (Photo by Joli Livaudais)

 

By Janlori Goldman

Quintessential Fanny, fresh Pepsi in hand. (Photo courtesy Nickole Brown)

Quintessential Fanny, fresh Pepsi in hand. (Photo courtesy Nickole Brown)

Reading Nickole Brown’s new book of poems, Fanny Says, is like being introduced to someone you never want to let go, the kind of fierce, tender, acerbic, complicated woman who will snag you by your scruff and tell you what you don’t want to hear, and— in the next breath— what you need to hear. As Brown notes at the start, This book is a biography of sorts… and most words in italics, unless otherwise noted… are not words I wrote but words I wrote down, transcribing best I could as my grandmother spoke to me.

Fanny is a trash-talking, scrappy southerner, sure of all the right ways to do everything, from making potato salad (recipe included) to how to serve her a Pepsi:

Make it four pieces of ice— not three, and not five. And I don’t want it too full;

As with the subject of her first book, Sister, Brown says she tried not to write about Fanny, and consciously sought to avoid giving voice to her grandmother, and to all she embodied of the old south, bigotry, poverty, and violence. But in the end, Brown says, she had no choice: If I got hit by a bus, Fanny’s is the story I didn’t want to disappear.