A tour de force of prose style, Holler is poet Danielle Chapman's moving and provocative portrait of her Southern, military childhood — and an unflinching reckoning with what such an inheritance means now. A crucial book for anyone with a racial conscience in today's divided America, Holler is one woman's account of "the miraculous catastrophe" of being human in an inhumane world, and proof that it's possible to fully face who we are while searching for forgiveness.
Holler begins with Chapman's father's death, in a scuba diving accident in Okinawa, which she witnessed at age three. Brought back to the States by her father's father, the former Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Chapman soon finds herself in the family's ancestral farmhouse in Tennessee — a tavern built in 1790 and later an antebellum farm. There, Chapman encounters the pungent atmospheres of her Confederate forebears, and a living cast of Southern eccentrics and WWII warhorses, forcing her to confront America's racism and its wars. She enters her Gen X adolescence on fire with liberal outrage, but bewildered by "what to do about it." It's only as an adult, returning to her memories after decades working as a poet and a professor, that Chapman is able to tell the stories that made her childhood — turning up the depth of their sins, their sufferings, their humor, and their grace.
Chapman's second collection of poetry, Boxed Juice, is forthcoming from Unbound Edition Press in 2024.
Danielle Chapman is the author of two collections of poems, Delinquent Palaces (Northwestern University Press, 2015) and Boxed Juice, which will be released from Unbound Edition Press in Spring 2024. She teaches Shakespeare and creative writing at Yale University and lives in Hamden, CT, with her husband, Christian Wiman, and their daughters, Eliza and Fiona.
"Holler traces out the strands of self, place and history that bind us to any past we claim or disclaim, that live on in our pride and regret, our nerves and our senses." - Marilynne Robinson
"Danielle Chapman's Holler is a magical and rare species of a book that decenters our conclusive judgments and over-moralizing to make room for the complexities of history and the truth of personal stories, hidden narratives, and family lore. I am moved by the grace this book seeks and the textured moments it evokes. The biggest tragedy, the book suggests, is that we are either claimed by beauty and evil, enmeshed in tales that calcify; or, like from the pen of Chapman, released into our greater consciousness to lend us opportunities for insight and redemption." - Major Jackson
"What is it to forgive and to be forgiven? Is history unforgivable? Danielle Chapman was born into a history of sorrow and guilt, a white, Southern, military family, her grandfather a Commandant of the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, her ancestors the owners and traders of enslaved people. With blazing lyric intensity, she recreates the infinitely complicated, sometimes savage, sometimes tender world in which she grew to consciousness. Chapman's story builds to a conclusion of mythic power and surprise made real in every phrase of her phosphorescent prose. An astonishment. A lesson in being human." - Rosanna Warren
"Danielle Chapman's beautiful memoir looks at the American crisis from the inside: a poet and academic from the North reflects on her Southern family history. She investigates with vigor and honesty the story of one family – a story that is sometimes (often) as devastating as American history itself. Chapman's honesty, her unwillingness to look away, to hide from the past is endlessly compelling — as she considers her Southern ancestors unfussed by the evil in their world and in themselves, putting off repentance, or, rather, bequeathing it to me. And here I am, ashamed and yet alive. In a time when so many offer lip-service instead of actual reckoning, Chapman [is]… full of character, full of refusal to speak in platitudes, full of personality and heart, brimming with the kind of verbal music that makes emotion come alive for the reader almost viscerally (indeed, few can write a prose as musical and precise as Chapman's). Holler is stunning book." - Ilya Kaminsky
"This memoir arises from Chapman's good nature though there is much to cry over. Chapman's temperament is even and kind. You feel it in the poetic nuances of her sentences, in her precision and wit, in the legacy of literature that enlarges her thoughts. It is a Southern story, American with a bitter and by-now familiar tint of blood and red apples. Chapman has reflected on the many shapes such a story takes, when told without prejudice, and the resulting work has great value." - Fanny Howe
"Holler is exquisite and moving, an excavation of personal history and national mythologies, and Danielle Chapman's complex and sensitive approach offers a brave and insightful path forward as we confront the past." - Philip Klay
"Danielle Chapman sees—and lets us see—both the beauty and the horror of her family legacy in this sad, haunting, and, above all, unblinking memoir." - Anne Fadiman