Radiant and tender, My Baby First Birthday is a collection that examines innocence, asking us who gets to be loved and who has to deplete themselves just to survive. It's about existence and nonexistence, about being born—without consent. Jenny Zhang writes about accepting pain, about the way we fetishize womanhood and motherhood, and reduce women to their violations, traumas, and body parts. She questions the way we feminize and racialize nurturing, and live in service of other people's dreams. Her poems explore the obscenity of patriarchy, whiteness, and capitalism, the violence of rescue and heroism.
The magic trick in this book is that despite all these themes, the book never feels like some jeremiad. Zhang uses friendship as a lyric. She seeks tenderness, radiant beauty, and having love for your mistakes. Through all this, she writes about being alone—really alone, like why-was-I-ever-born alone—and trying, despite everything, to reach out and touch something—skin to skin, animal to animal.