“With poignancy, honesty, and grace, Becker contends with the messy implications of her lesbian sexuality, Jewish identity, and sister's suicide. . . . Becker is acutely aware of, and devastated by, her many losses, but emerges defiant and admirably without regret or shame.”
Becker's dominant role is the exuberant observer, the all-American girl of the title. In "Too Jewish" she defends her choice not to get a nose job, while remembering her sister's eagerness to "march/ before the knife, the gleam of good marriages/ in her prescient eye./ My sister only wanted a date," as if one "could fix a problem/ by cutting it away." At other times in the book, her poems consider their subjects with a distanced and ironic sensibility reminiscent of W.H. Auden, as in her poem "Solar," in which a speaker meditates on the sexual identity of a landscape:
The desert is butch, she dismisses your illusions
about what you might do to make your life
work better, she stares you down and doesn't say
a word about your past. She brings you a thousand days,
a thousand suns effortlessly each morning rising.
She lets you think what you want all afternoon.
These are her best poems. They achieve a wonderful sense of negative capability, considering multiple viewpoints without grasping for the easy observation. Nothing is cheap in Becker's poetry, not even the dimestore lipstick in "Dreaming At The Rexall Drug," where the speaker finds, in the memory of watching her grandmother shop for makeup in 1955, a reason to lament her own mortality: "as far as I know, everyone will live forever." Becker, an associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, revels in exposing kitsch as the skeletal structure of modern memory, and puts a lively sense of prosody at her service.