The Star-Spangled Banner, Denise Duhamel's sixth book of poems, is about falling in love, American-style, with someone who is not American.
In the title poem, a small American girl mishears the first line of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as "José, can you see?", which leads her to imagine a foreign lover of an American woman dressed in a star-spangled gown. The misunderstandings caused by language recur throughout the book: contemplating what "yes" means in different cultures; watching Nickelodeon's "Nick at Nite" with a husband who grew up in the Philippines and never saw The Patty Duke Show; misreading another poet's title "The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke" as "The Difference Between Pepsi and Pope" and concluding that "Pepsi is all for premarital sex. / The Pope won't stain your teeth." Misunderstandings also abound as characters mingle with others from different classes. In "Cockroaches," a father-in-law refers to budget-minded American college students backpacking in Europe as cockroaches, not realizing his daughter-in-law was once, not so long ago, such a student/roach herself.
With welcome levity and refreshing irreverence, The Star-Spangled Banner addresses issues of ethnicity, class, and gender in America.