Beyond a Book Review: Grief and Hope in All We Are Told Not to Touch

beyond a book review_grief and hope in all we are told not to touch, purple text over lightened image of an open book
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Shawna Ayoub moves "beyond the book review" in not only recommending great books by diverse writers, but highlighting a technique to apply to your own writing.


All We Are Told Not to Touch, by Leticia Del Toro

The last two years have seen me coming to terms with grief. I’ve experienced its profundity, the way it claws at you, how it slithers into your bones and all the places you bend, laying you out flat with its weight on top of you. Grief is heavy and hard. It takes your time and energy, and it can feel unrelenting. I’m still in it, and that’s okay right now because there is something getting me through. 

It turns out Leticia Del Toro knows all about surviving grief. In her book, All We Are Told Not to Touch, she explores the innards and edges of grief in a sensory dance that transports and breaks you. But Del Toro is clearly an expert in grief. While this Chicana poet rips you apart, she also builds you up, teaching you how to survive alongside her. What is her secret?



Why we write

Hope oozes from the pages of this lyrical collection. I admit that I was so surprised to find hope among her subject matter, I read the book twice. I wanted to understand how she located joy after her losses. I’m not talking about the hackneyed idea that something good has to come from something bad, or the perpetuation that there is a reason for everything. There is no place for those ideas in the deepest grief. I’m talking about seeing that there can be death, but there is life, too. The simple fact of it leaves room for hope of better.

Honestly, I walked away from this collection feeling improved. I could see light on the horizon after a long period of darkness. I believe that’s why writers write. It’s why I write; to make just one meaningful connection.


Writing prompt(s)

A simple but profound exercise is to get quiet and answer the following questions: Why do you write? What, if any, connections do you want to make through your work with words? What is the last thing you read that gave you hope?

Give yourself 15 minutes in a quiet space to reflect and record. This is an opportunity to learn about yourself. It may generate goals or spark inspiration. Allow that. And if the writing wants to continue, allow that, too. 


Will you try this exercise? Read this book? Share with us in the comments.


Buy All We Are Told Not to Touch at (and support independent bookstores across the U.S.)


Related reading 

Beyond a Book Review: Once Upon a Time in Dovelion

Beyond a Book Review: Narrators and Compassion in Finding La Negrita

Beyond a Book Review: Research as Connection in Through the Banks of the Red Cedar

Beyond a Book Review: Intuition in River Woman, River Demon

Beyond a Book Review: Timeline(s) in Becoming AppalAsian

Beyond a Book Review: Unwieldy Creatures and retelling our stories

Beyond a Book Review: Containers as safe spaces in Nonwhite and Woman

Beyond a Book Review: Footnotes in Belly to the Brutal


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