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I'd Rather Be Called a Nerd: Book Review

When I saw the title of Dominic “Nerd” McDonald’s collection, I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd, I knew I had to read it. As a teenager, it was hard to be a nerd, but now as an adult, I have embraced the term and find solace in others who identify similarly.

I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd explodes with insight and vulnerability wrapped carefully in wit, wordplay, and rhyme. McDonald shares his story of growing up in Los Angeles – as a self-proclaimed Black nerd, captivating us with his spirit, talent, and honesty. He takes us on a journey from Venice to Compton, from the pain of bullying and not fitting into finding empowerment in who you are.

“Not the social norm and never did conform,
still here to take the world by storm.”

This book is for the socially awkward, the insecure intellectual, and the aspiring rapper. In these pages, you’ll find a home with a warm hearth of humor and wisdom.

We are poets because we love words and McDonald is a perfect example of the poet’s call to play with language. His masterful lyricism had me turning the pages to discover the next kernel of genius. Both vulnerable and clever, he invites us to sit with his flow – “I’m from places where the only time we saw a sunnyside is after them eggs cracked.”

Growing up and living in Los Angeles, I appreciated Dominic’s firm sense of place. LA is a complex, multi-layered city, no one experiences the same way. I was honored to read LA through Dominic’s eyes – “Hold on a second, airplane is passing.” And who from the LA poetry scene doesn’t love a poem dedicated to DPL to remind us of the power of poetic community.

A mixture of levity, seriousness, pop culture references, and political-social commentary, I thought it appropriate that I read the bulk of his book commuting on the Expo line to and from work, amidst “beach bums, money parasites, and druggies” and wondering

"Why are humans the only species
that have to pay to live on earth?"

I have never heard McDonald read, but I can almost imagine how he spits on the mic. His lines leaped off the page and into my ears. This is not a collection you can read silently to yourself, it demands you taste the words on your tongue.

If you’d like to witness McDonald on the mic, join us this Sunday at 1 pm at the Sims Library of Poetry, where he’ll be sharing some of his pieces from I’d Rather Be Called A Nerd alongside NeverSpeakLB. RSVP here.

You can purchase his book here.

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