Tag Archives: rape

Only Ever Yours #bookreview #readwomen #YAlit

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Only Ever Yours #bookreview #readwomen #YAlit

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

published by Quercus in 2015

procured from the library

At a chunky 406 pages, Only Ever Yours is longer than I usually like to read for Grab the Lapels. However, in a search for friendship, I found a book club in my area advertised online. I was in luck; their next meeting would be 9 days later, and many of the books they had read, such as Furiously Happy and Between the World and Me, I had read too. The library, I discovered, kept O’Neill in the Teen section, which is when it dawned on me that Only Ever Yours is a young adult book. What’s the big beef, you might ask? While I don’t condemn young adult literature, I find that most of it takes societal problems and makes the issue so obvious that the book feels like a JUST SAY NO campaign. Why read YA when I can get my hands on the more nuanced adult versions? I know that YA is often an issue of sellers labeling a book a certain way, but when there are billions of book choices, I’m not really willing to take the chance.

Basically, without my new book club, I would not have picked up Louise O’Neill’s novel.

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This was the cover of my library copy

Only Ever Yours is a dystopian book about women and girls (called eves). They are genetically modified and hatched in a school for the use of men and boys (called Inheritants). These girls are brainwashed through propaganda for 16 years to follow mantras, like “I am pretty. I am a good girl. I always do as I am told” and “I am happy-go-lucky” and “I am appealing to others. I am always agreeable.” Whether they become a wife who bears sons, a concubine, or an unsexed teacher in the girls’ training school, they are told to be grateful that they weren’t naturally born and conceived, because girl babies are thrown in graves. Girls and women are property, totally at the disposal of a man’s desire to procreate or get off. The unsexed school teachers are not necessary, we’re told, but they’re important because they dispense the training to be wives and concubines. Their 16th year of life, the eves are told which role they will play. Whatever a girl’s role, it is expected for boys to get married and have a lot of sex with various women.

There are rules for eves:

All eves are created to be perfect, but over time they seem to develop flaws. Comparing yourself to your sisters is a useful way of identifying these flaws, but you must then take the necessary steps to improve yourself. There is always room for improvement. — Audio Guide to the Rules for Proper female Behavior, the Original Father

The focus on Only Ever Yours is the girls about to graduate school, at age 16.  To maintain the perfect weight (about 118 lbs) they all have eating disorders aided by pills. The main character is freida, #630. Each week, she and the other eves are ranked by how attractive they are. The top ten eves are most likely to secure a wife role. While eves have zero choices, because choices mean being burned on a pyre or experimented on —  Inheritants don’t have to compete for anything, so they are spoiled, fat, greedy, and demand sex. I kept thinking this whole society is driven by the throbbing penis.

The characters in Only Ever Yours are terribly familiar. If you’ve ever been a devoted fan of the Sweet Valley Twins books like I was, you’ll remember the cast: Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, perfect size sixes, matching golden blond hair, blue-green eyes. No one can tell the twins apart, except their family and dearest friends. Only Ever Yours has Liz and Jessie, “exact replicas” with “golden-blond hair” and “aqua-colored eyes.” If you’re thinking, the eves are genetically modified…how did they get twins? then I would say, I know, right?! The only explanation seems to be that the parallel between the two books was what Louise O’Neill was going for.

Just like in Sweet Valley, Only Ever Yours has a “bossy bitch,” a girl who wants to better than everyone else. In Sweet Valley, we’re talking about Lila Fowler. In O’Neill’s novel, it’s megan. Such girls give compliments like, “You’re so brave for wearing any old thing! I admire that!”

The eves in this book are painfully annoying because all they focus on is what they look like. This is how they’ve been trained their whole lives. They’re ranked by appearance. There are mirrors everywhere. They are weighed. One person hit 125 lbs, the FATTEST anyone’s ever been!! Then, I think back to Sweet Valley. The first book, Double Love, opens with this paragraph:

“Oh, Lizzie, do you believe how horrendous I look today!” Jessica Wakefield groaned as she stepped in front of her sister, Elizabeth, and stared at herself in the bedroom mirror. “I’m so gross! Just look at me! Everything is totally wrong. To begin with, I’m disgustingly fat….” With that, she spun around to show off a stunning figure without an extra ounce visible anywhere.

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Double Love, September 1984

And the eves in Only Ever Yours are exactly the same way. There’s the teeter-totter of competition for prettiest, but the recognition that both concubines and wives are part of society and please men.

Honestly, I can’t tell the eves apart. freida says the eves are “almost interchangeable.” The diversity, she points out, is in “skin tone and hair color.” freida is brown, but her color is only mentioned about 4 times. At one point, frieda’s skin is compared to that of an Inheritant named Mahatma. Perhaps she’s Indian, I thought, but remembered the eves all look exactly the same. There’s no ethnicity.

But as frieda takes more and more drugs to help her sleep, she feels that she looks terrible. Is that true? I’m not sure. Like Jessica Wakefield, most eves think they look terrible (except megan). freida is our biased, brainwashed narrator. One way O’Neill tells us eves are different is by their clothes — so. many. clothes. But I don’t know kitty heels and sweetheart necklines, so it didn’t mean much. And do clothes matter on identical perfect bodies?

Half of the book is backstabbing, manipulating, and alliances created between eves. It’s catty. It’s Sweet Valley Twins galore. Girls record any tiny wrongdoing a fellow eve may commit and immediately post it on social media. I kept telling myself the author is doing this on purpose. Just go with it. It’s a brilliant choice the author made to showcase contemporary jealousy and female objectification. But, ew.

Eves are told how NOT to feel: no crying, no loving boys, no persuading boys. Eves don’t even see Inheritants until a couple of months before the big ceremony. At the ceremony 16-year-old dudes just choose 16-year-old girls to be wives based on their smokin’ hot bodies. O’Neill suggests, this just means give birth to sons and feeling superior to the concubines, who were not ranked top ten. The arrival of the boys is actually where the story gets interesting because there is less focus on hotness rankings.

The author effectively plays with the reader’s feelings. We know who the top-ten hottest eves are. But after the boys show up, eves aren’t ranked anymore. They aren’t allowed to tell the boys how they were ranked. Why? Competition kept them fit and working hard to please, perhaps? Enter Darwin: he’s the only handsome Inheritant, and the son of a judge. He’s the Bruce Patman (if you’re still following my Sweet Valley Twin comparison). Darwin shows interest in our scrappy freida — it’s like there’s some Todd Wilkins mixed in there! Hooray, I thought! Darwin can save freida! Things can turn out okay! HE’S NICE.

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Bruce Patman VS. Todd Wilkins — same person?

Um, hello? Hey, self? Yeah…since when are we interested in a boy saving a girl? And ultimately, isn’t he going to use her body to have sons while having porno relations with concubines? And isn’t he going to set her on fire when she turns 40?? And isn’t she trained to be okay with all of this??? I actually rooted for Darwin and freida for ages before my brain caught up with me. The eves are so emotionally and sexually abused (and they don’t know it) that I thought a good old-fashioned romance between teenagers was the answer. The ending of Only Ever Yours was unpredictable. It kept changing directions, which kept me interested.

If I wanted the grown-up version of this book, I could have read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. But that’s not what book club picked. Despite the aspects that annoyed me — and let’s be fair; they were necessary for the story — I would recommend Only Ever Yours.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman #readwomen #bookreview @thelindywest

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Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman #readwomen #bookreview @thelindywest

*Author photo from The Guardian.

Shrill (May 2016, Hachette Books) is a collection of 19 essays from comedian/journalist Lindy West, who writes for The Guardian and has pieces at many websites, such as JezebelNew York TimesGQ, and The Stranger. I heard through a Tweet that her collection was being published, and I was instantly drawn to what I learned: West is smart, precise, funny — and fat. As a fat lady myself, I wanted to know more. Rarely do fat female role models appear in the United States (um, or elsewhere), so I put a hold on a copy at the library.

After I got into the book, I realized that I’ve read some of West’s articles in the above mentioned publications. I don’t often remember a writer’s name when I read an online article, but the piece she wrote that I remembered clearly describes the time a troll created an e-mail address and Twitter account using West’s recently deceased father’s name to humiliate and torment her. And then he later came out and apologized to her, which never, ever happens. The main themes of Shrill are fat shaming, rape culture, comedy, abortion, and trolls, and they’re all examined through a feminist lens.

Anytime I read about feminism, I instantly compare the work to Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. Gay is probably the most notable feminist of our generation. After reading Bad Feminist, I didn’t feel great. I was mostly confused and disappointed. It seemed like she was either telling personal stories, talking about how she likes things that most feminists feel oppress women (like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”), and listing what she likes and hates (movies, books, etc.). I felt like Bad Feminist started as a listicle and ended up a book. Thesis statements? Not really. Organization? More like meandering. A call to action? I have no idea what Gay thinks feminists can do to move forward. I do not write to demean Gay’s book. But I do know that many other readers, according to Goodreads, found the same issues and are perhaps seeking a different contemporary feminist voice.

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Yes, West is a white woman and Roxane Gay is Haitian-American, but both women talk about intersectional feminism, so West is a good alternative if you are also an intersectional feminist. Both women included personal essays that appeared to have little to do with feminism. Both are hugely into pop culture (especially Twitter). But I felt West’s writing was clearer, more rhetorically sound, and presented solutions to problems feminists encounter.

Some examples of West’s intersection feminism include the socioeconomic. She talks openly about her abortion (and created #shoutyourabortion to de-stigmatize abortion rights) and how she discovered, “It didn’t occur to me, at the time, that there was anything complicated about obtaining an abortion. This is a trapping of privilege: I grew up middle-class and white in Seattle, I had always had insurance, and, besides, abortion was legal.” Later in the essay, West states what privilege is, referring to the abortion clinic making her promise to pay her bill instead of charging her up front like they’re supposed to: “Privilege means that it’s easy for white women to do each other favors. Privilege means that those of us who need it the least often get the most help.”

West again touches on intersectional feminism when she discusses fat-shaming, which makes fat women feel like they don’t deserve anything. She argues, “Denying people access to value is an incredibly insidious form of emotional violence, one that our culture wields aggressively and liberally to keep marginalized groups small and quiet.” Throughout Shrill, West considers feminism that benefit her more than women of color, with disabilities, etc.

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The best part of Shirll is that West helped me “figure out” my own feminism. While I feel that rape jokes are never, ever funny, I would not have an answer that appeased the folks who shout about freedom of speech, say “you’re just not funny,” or call you “too sensitive” for your claims. But West breaks it down. When she was younger, West constantly went to comedy clubs and saw rising stars (who are now super famous), like Patton Oswalt, Mitch Hedberg, Marc Maron, and Maria Bamford.

One night, a comedian was telling a joke about herpes, and everyone was laughing. Except West. She analyzes why she didn’t laugh. Because the comic wasn’t making fun of his herpes, the joke was designed to shame people who have herpes. Statistically, West points out, many people in the room have herpes. So why are they laughing? They laugh, she argues, because if they don’t, they will be outed for having herpes. The joke works “brilliantly”because there is no chance that people won’t laugh, essentially, because the comic was lazy enough to embarrass everyone into laughing. Those who don’t have herpes are now vindicated in their feelings that people with herpes are gross. This moment changed the way West felt about comedy, which led her into arguing publicly that rape jokes are not funny.

Rape jokes are not funny, West points out, because they come from a person of power profiting on the traumas of people with no power. She compares it to the CEO of a company getting up at the Christmas party and roasting the janitor for barely making enough money to feed his family. Similarly, a white man will most likely never be raped, nor will he fear being raped, nor does he have a game plan for how to avoid being raped and what to do if raped (women like me know these plans in detail). Therefore, the joke is funny to men. West was invited to debate Jim Norton on a TV show over the issue. If you know Norton, you know he’s a bit if a dark comic, and I’m not surprised he’s pro-rape jokes.

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What’s interesting is that West’s rhetoric was sound, but she didn’t change Norton’s mind. Off camera, he said he agreed that it’s wrong to take advantage of victims, but he was more concerned about free speech for comics. Norton felt that comedy didn’t translate into real life — that people who believe rape jokes are funny won’t go rape people. West disagreed, and then something happened…

Jim Norton fans bombarded West’s Twitter feed, e-mail, the comment section sof her articles — all over the internet. They wrote things about raping her, thinking she’s too fat to rape, cutting her up with an electric saw, etc. Norton had to admit that his fans were being aggressive and translating the “right” to tell rape jokes into real-life rape threats. He even wrote an article asking his fans to cool it. This was in 2010. West notes that since then, the comedy scene has changed; comedians are changing their tune. Thinking about how speaking up helped, and how using the rape threats to make a point helped, changed the way I thought about treading the internet, and about the maxim “Don’t Feed the Trolls,” with which West disagrees. Why should women be silent?

West also argues that fat is a feminist issue. She notes, “You have to swallow, every day, that you are a secondary being whose worth is measured by an arbitrary, impossible standard, administered by men.” West also describes how as a fat child, she was so ashamed of her body that it kept her silent. Women, both online and in life, are silenced constantly. Heartbreakingly, West explains that as a child, “[she] got good at being early on — socially, if not physically. In public, until [she] was eight, [she] would speak only to [her] mother, and even then, only in whispers, pressing [her] face into her [mother’s] leg.” West doesn’t have these earth-shattering traumas to report (if I compare her to Jessica Valenti, for example, whose new memoir catalogs all the sexual trauma she’s experienced). Yet, she is affected for most of her life by fat-shaming and the way it shuts her down as a woman, helping me to think more about my own silences — and the voices we’re missing from other fat people. There’s no need to compare traumas (sexual, emotional, physical) and decide whose is worse by some made-up standard. Traumas that shut women down are all appalling.

No matter what she’s writing about, West is ridiculously funny. She starts Shrill by describing all the fat female role models from her childhood, a list that included Auntie Shrew, Lady Cluck, The Trunchbull, and Ursula the Sea Witch. There are almost none, is the point. But did you ever wonder why King Triton is so ripped? West writes, “History is written by the victors, so forgive me if I don’t trust some P90X sea king’s smear campaign against the radical fatty in the next grotto.” Oh, man! I almost died!


auntie shrew      lady kluck3      the trunchbull      ursula2


In a nutrition class West signs up for, back when she felt like she needed to lose weight to be somebody, the teacher tells the students that if they get hungry after breakfast at 7Am and before lunch at 1PM, they should have 6 almonds. If they’ve gone over their “almond allotment, try an apple. So crisp. So filling.” West remembers, “Then everyone in nutrition class would nod about how fresh and satisfying it is to just eat an apple.” Lindy West labels this scene…wait for it… “the Apple Appreciation Circle-Jerk Jamboree.” I laughed so hard about this I called my mom and read her the scene! My mom, too had experienced such a class years ago.

Here’s one more great line: West compares her first experience in first-class flying and compares her seat to the ones in coach: “It has succeeded at being a chair instead of a flying social experiment about the limits of human endurance.” I read this passage at work and started cackling, despite the dead silence of the building.

Sometimes I wondered if I found Shrill so terribly funny and relevant because I am a fat woman. I tried reading passages to my husband, who didn’t laugh as much as I did, but he’s also a thoughtful person who may dismiss the humor and feel bad, wondering instead if I’m feeling bad for having read about fat-shaming and rape. My verdict is you must read this book. Lindy West is a feminist who’s doing something; she fought –with results — the fat-shaming that became acceptable around 2005, rape jokes in 2010, and internet trolls who make the internet unsafe for women.

PHD to Ph.D.

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PHD to Ph.D.

Po Ho on Dope

Title: PHD (Po H# on Dope) to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life

Author: Elaine Richardson, Ph.D.

Published by: New City Community Press in 2013

For me, it’s been a long time between finishing this book and writing the review—about two weeks. I always have something to say about a book, but am careful to write an outline and decide which pages I want to point to and quote. But this book has almost scared me out of writing anything. I met Elaine Richardson at an education conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she was a keynote speaker. She was electric, charming, and intelligent in a way that intimidated me despite my own schooling and experience as an adjunct professor. When she signed my book, she was very kind and wrote, “Melanie, thanks for teaching and loving! Dr. E.”

PHD to Ph.D. is Richardson’s memoir about growing up a black girl in Cleveland. She writes briefly about her parents, a mother from Jamaica with very little education and a father who played with Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, though he was never famous (7). Richardson has some girlfriends who help her get into trouble when she is a girl, and later starts dating a much older boy, which is when things get drastically worse. He begins using her as a prostitute, and Richardson ends up prostituting until she is about 27. She has a baby with one of her pimps, and another baby whose father she doesn’t know. On many occasions, Richardson almost dies. When she finally gets things together and decides to go back to school, she never could have imagined how education would save her from certain death. The book is a compulsive read, but isn’t balanced evenly between being a drugged-out prostitute and a college student.

Richardson made me care about the people in her memoir. Her father isn’t written about much, but I still remember how cool he was in his old neighborhood. Richardson writes that her father dressed “gangsta style. When he wasn’t going to work, he wore his brim broke down and carried his pool stick in a long black case….His pool shootin friends called him ‘Bullwhip shawty from section 40’…” (5). Her father was a Black Muslim, like Malcolm X, and he had a “Black name” (meaning his Muslim name): Gulam Jameel Abdul-Rasheed (7). Richardson remembers how she felt about her father: “[My brother and me] cracked up at that name. We didn’t know any better. Daddy was also into something called Mentalphysics. He had his books and encyclopedias in a special place in the living room and couldn’t nobody touch em!” (7). Richardson’s dad is a textured guy: gangsta, pool shooter, musician, Black Muslim, reader, and I liked how memorable he was. I also like that Richardson maintains her childish voice: it’s “mentalphysics” as she remembers it, instead of “metaphysics.”

Her mother, too, was a vivid presence, though she is mentioned a lot more than the father. It really stuck with me that when Richardson was on a drugs and prostituting that her mother would call the police anytime she saw her daughter on the streets (141). The mother doesn’t necessarily want her daughter in trouble, but kept from dying.

Richardson herself is someone I care about, even when she makes terrible choices and I want to dislike her. While it may sound like Richardson writes herself in a sympathetic light, I didn’t find that to be the case. People live their lives and survive as best they can, period. Richardson describes herself as a girl: “I was a good kid. I played violin in the orchestra, sang in the choir, I was in the smart kids’ reading group, I was outgoing” (24). But, she’s also tormented, made fun of: “Other names people called me were chub, fat girl, liver lips, rubber lips, and bubble lips” (21). Down and down her sense of self-worth goes, and Richardson knows it’s important to connect her self-esteem to becoming a prostitute.

In 7th grade (about age 12) she is a victim of statutory rape and becomes pregnant. Her mother helps her procure an abortion, and Richardson reflects on it. She realizes she shouldn’t have hung out with girls who “knew” more than her, and she shouldn’t have gone into a room with a boy who was 19, because that meant that you wanted to have sex. She says she didn’t know these things at the time (43). We all know that hanging out with the cool, fast girls is a way to heal our broken self-esteem.

But, her new boyfriend, Andrew, understands nothing, and when they have intercourse, he comments on how “loose” she is. Richardson breaks my heart when she writes, “I had had an abortion in the second trimester. The baby I would have had was developed. Whatever the size of my vagina, it was the way it was because I had had a dead baby. All he talked about was how huge I was down there” (43). While dating Andrew, who is 17, Richardson continues to go to junior high, where she loves to learn. She is leading a double life of intelligent girl at school, and girl with poor self-esteem hanging out with older boys who pay attention to her. Andrew eventually convinces Richardson that if she loves him she will work the street, and he becomes her pimp.

I learned that pimps have favorite “hos” and treat that prostitute almost like a girlfriend. When Richardson has intercourse with her second pimp, AC, she knows that she feels nothing from sex. She believes it might be her experience in 7th grade or from having turned tricks for a while already, but it’s like she’s dead inside to sexual relationships (98). I felt terrible when I read her assessment. Sexual intimacy is so important, but Richardson doesn’t feel it anywhere in the book because sex is disconnected from love and partnership.

Richardson still has dreams, even when she’s drugged out and working as a prostitute for pimp #3, Mack. They plan to save enough money to open a legitimate jewelry store, and it makes sense to her 19-year-old mind (139). But not much later, Richardson is stabbed while escorting a trick (158). It’s hard to read about the author nearly getting herself killed, and later almost abducted by a serial murderer/rapist (170), but juxtaposed with her dreams, the whole story created sympathy in me. This is a woman who was broken as a girl, and she has no idea how to fix it.

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I definitely had a lot I wanted to remember as I was reading so I could talk about it later.

Almost all of PHD to Ph.D. is written in various dialects. I love the authenticity this adds to the story. For instance, the black community in Cleveland makes fun of people who aren’t from the city, and readers get a great dose of dialect: “Dat county ass nigga got dem big ass white wall tires, dat funny ass cucaracha horn and got da nerve to have air shocks on that raggedy ass green car. Dat’s a country muthafucka right dere” (20). Some people in the book use more slang that others; not every sentence is written like the previous example. Remember, Richardson’s mother is Jamaican: “Mi ago kill yuh. Yuh nuh want nuttin from life? Before I mek a dutty nigga ruin yah life, mi will kill yuh mi-self and walk downtown and tell the dyam police is mi kill yuh” (75). Richarson’s grad school advisor, also a black woman, tells her, “You have to stay in da library. You have to know the field like the back of your hand. Knowwhatumsayin? You cain’t sing upon dis Ph.D. You have to read, write and research up on dis bad boy” (233). By getting how people talk and think in those people’s own words, Richardson gives voices to those who are often told they’re wrong. Black folks in the book, from the educated to the illiterate, have a voice they’re told is “wrong” because it doesn’t sound white.

Getting back into college after drugs and turning tricks happens quickly; in fact, I have to comb through my memory to remember how she got herself clean, into support groups, and to Cleveland State University. Everything about Richardson as a girl and later prostitute made me a compulsive reader. I couldn’t put this book down! But everything about school seems rushed and not as clearly thought out. Indeed, she goes to college on page 192, but the book is only 251 total pages. Things start out interestingly; Richardson is told she needs a lot of help with her writing and is sent to the writing center. The professors and tutors are all white, and they can’t figure out what to make of this black woman’s voice, which is especially insulting because her first paper is about her own neighborhood. The tutor keeps asking, “Whadidya mean to say here?” (197). Richardson writes, “I looked her dead in the eyes and said, ‘I meant what I said'” (197). There’s a great exchange here; basically, the tutor has her own nasally Midwestern sound, but she gets to judge the author because Richardson doesn’t sound white. This is a fantastic, enlightening scene.

The rest of the college section is rushed, though. She flies through her bachelors, masters, and PhD. She gets a teaching job at a university. She moves to another university. She studies the value of black voices and argues they are not “incorrect” or “wrong,” that closed-minded white tutors and professors “didn’t see who we were or where we came from as an important part of the educational process” (201). I wanted to know so much more here. There isn’t nearly as much detail or specific anecdotes told about her time in school as there was from when she was a prostitute.

This is the biggest flaw of the book. I wish there were two books: one for the first part of her life, and one for the transition into school and the process of earning degrees. I wanted to read about her encounters with teachers, peers, tutors, and even her co-workers and students when she starts to teach. There are a couple of instances, but not nearly enough. After Richardson gets that first college paper back with a D, she talks to another student, a black man who is also older. He says, “This chump don’t know nothin about Black folks. I was using Manchild in the Promised Land as my model, and he was trippin, crossin out every other word! These lil tutors in here, too. Please! I ain’t even worried about it, sis. I got a wife and a family. My wife takes classes at night. We just need they little degrees so we can do what we got to do to take care of ourselves. Knowwhatumsayin?” (200). I love this encounter! It’s as if Richardson and this man are in on a secret about some “system” or “game” that is college.

Despite its too-speedy ending, I highly recommend PHD to Ph.D. You can read more about the book and Dr. E on her website.

Elaine Richardson

Dr. Richardson did sing a bit at the conference I attended. She also writes poetry and studies hip hop with her students.

Of Marriageable Age

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51AACbxgrlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Of Marriageable Age is a saga (546 pages) by Guyanese author Sharon Maas. The book was originally published by Harper Collins in 2000, but Maas has re-released it through Bookoutre. The description of this book alone intimidated me, and sagas are not my usual read. Of Marriageable Age follows three narratives (Savitri’s, Nataraj’s, and Sarojini’s) that start in three different decades (1920s, 1940s, 1960s) on three continents (India, British Guyana, England). Even the names and locations intimidated me, as I was worried about cultural and historical information and pronunciation being a hinderance, which caused me to put off reading Of Marriageable Age for a while.

This saga is actually quite easy to follow. The author makes sure to remind readers often enough of who’s who. If I wasn’t sure of a location, a simple Google search helped me out. In terms of remembering the decades, it’s not really that important. One character’s story, Savitri’s, is set in the 1920s, which is the outlier and easy to remember. By page 130 I was aware of how the three characters were related. But, the exciting part was seeing how it unfolded. There are also Tamil words used, like amma and appa, which were easy enough to figure out. Other words, such as lungisambar, and tinnai were not super clear, though I did get the idea: pants, food, sleeping spot. I was dismayed to find a glossary at the end of the book–dismayed because it was too late for me to use it. Why publishers never alert readers to the fact that there is a glossary, especially e-reader editions that don’t make it easy to flip through the whole book before reading, is beyond me.

The story mostly focuses on the Indian tradition of fathers being responsible for marrying off their daughters to suitable families. Oftentimes, little children are paired up, “officially” engaged when they are about 13, and then married at 14. Brides come from all over the place. Sarojini’s mother was “imported from India.” Her bridegroom, Deodat, who lives in British Guyana, is an “orthodox Brahmin” who “refused to take a wife born and bred in BG [British Guyana]. In such a woman traditions were diluted, culture was dying….He was appalled at the gradual disintegration of Hindu traditions, and the spineless capitulation of Indians to the secular spirit which ruled the colony.” While Of Marriageable Age hits on many important topics, whether or not girls can choose their husbands and whether or not Indians can marry non-Indians is the big theme.

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Madras in India, where most of Nataraj’s story takes place

Maas excels at yo-yoing the reader. At times, I wanted to burn this book for how Maas made me feel. I was faced with difficult moments that made me question what I would be okay with accepting. I hated Maas for making me do such personal questioning. Truly, it says a lot for an author to get the reader so involved and thinking beyond myself and my world. Then, when all seemed to be horrible, a breath of fresh air would rescue me and take the decision out of my hands, for which I was grateful. Some of the heavier topics included: rape, incest, arranged marriages, politics, racism, sexual liberation, and magical realism.

Yes, magical realism. Maas conflates idealized Indians with magical realism, which made me more willing to accept some of what might otherwise be sappy perfection. For instance, you’ll find this sort of thing often: “the dark, deep, all-knowing, all-seeing pools of his eyes.” Every time eyes were called “pools” I wanted to snicker. But, Maas gives some of her characters magical abilities, like this:

“Savitri once believed that everyone could talk to plants and birds and animals, that everyone knew their language. When she was very small, people had been alarmed by her silences….It was only when she discovered that humans didn’t understand silence that she began to use words, and then they came out in perfectly formed sentences, in two languages, and people were astonished. Only the other beings, the plants, birds, and animals, understood silence. People, she knew now, lived wrapped in thought-bodies, which was why they could not understand silence. The thought-bodies got in the way. They were like thick black clouds through which the purity of silence could not enter, and they kept people captive and dulled. Sometimes there were gaps in the thought-bodies.”

Georgetown, British Guyana, where most of Sarojini's story takes place.

Georgetown, British Guyana, where most of Sarojini’s story takes place.

And so, it feels a little more genuine to me that the characters with the ability to hear voices and animals, to heal or bring good fortune, should have deep “pool” eyes (they are magical, after all), and so I forgave the otherwise cliched descriptions.

Although I understood how the three character’s lives were linked, truly I did not fully know. Typically, Maas rotates the stories in a predictable way: Nataraj, Saroj, Savitri, each with their own chapter, and then repeat. Later in the book something tragic happens at the end of one of Savitri’s chapters, so I kept reading to get back to her story and find out what happened. Instead, Maas danced away from the foreboding plot, making the chapters play Nat and Saroj and Nat and Saroj and back and forth between THOSE two! I had to keep reading to know what happened! Maas expertly leaves readers dangling above the plot line they most want.

Whenever I thought I knew how the saga would end, even when I didn’t want it to end the way I predicted, I often found that I was wrong and there was more to know. Although the ending of the book is wrapped too neatly, is a bit too eager, it is Maas’s ability to make the reader feel right and then incorrect that kept me reading way past my bedtime. I highly recommend this Of Marriageable Age.

Bad Feminist

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71BKpcWC4bLBad Feminist (Harper Perennial, 2014) by Roxane Gay is a collection of essays, many of which have appeared online at places like The RumpusJezebel, and Buzzfeed. The book is broken into sections:

  • Me
  • Gender & Sexuality
  • Race & Entertainment
  • Politics, Gender & Race
  • Back to Me

Each section has a number of essays that address the topic of the section.

Several times, Gay tries to define feminism and understand her relationship to the idea. She notes, “Feminism has helped me believe that my voice matters, even in this world where there are so many voices demanding to be heard.” This is from the introduction, which first tells the reader that Gay is a bad feminist–someone who believes in equality and thinks sexism is institutional, but who also contradicts what some people believe is feminism.

A number of essays seemed without a thesis, which caused the content to seem only loosely related. “Bad Feminist: Take One” (which appears at the very end of the collection) begins by defining feminism (though I’m not sure why she’s doing this again–to come full circle?). Gay quotes a number of women who identify as feminist and then those who don’t due to the harsh connotations. Gay admits she has trouble being called a feminist for the same reasons: “I sometimes cringe when I am referred to as a feminist, as if I should be ashamed of my feminism or as if the word ‘feminist’ is an insult. The label is rarely offered in kindness.” She discusses stereotypes of feminists and how “sex-positive feminism” was born (to show which feminists don’t hate sex). She gives examples of wealthy or famous women who have made it who don’t call themselves feminists. Then, Gay describes how discouraged she is that feminism doesn’t really include women of color who face different kinds of struggles that white women don’t. The essay then describes Elizabeth Wurtzel’s idea that feminism needs to have work/life balance followed by an introduction to Anne-Marie Slaughter, who wrote an article about the struggle of feminists to have it all. Finally, Roxane Gay ends with discussing the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg–and spends about 6 pages discussing the problems with this book and when the author should be forgiven. Why is so much time dedicated to just Sandberg’s book? By the end of the essay, I wasn’t sure what the point was that Gay wanted to make. Did Gay work to define feminism, give a brief history of recent views of feminism, or mean to deconstruct Sandberg’s book?

The various essays have differing tones. I tended to like the articles that were personal. For example, “Bad Feminist: Take Two” seems much more heartfelt. Roxane Gay writes about her own struggles with feminism and the way she doesn’t quite fit into what she thinks the definition of a feminist is. This essay is a breath of fresh air, one that seems honest and suggests that readers not simply follow her advice, but to consider their own positions. However, I’m not sure why she discusses her own views on feminism in multiple essays and felt that editing to create one essay on Gay’s “bad feminism”–even if she did write about it multiple times on various websites–was needed. The essay on Scrabble also gave some great insight into the author’s personality. When she beats a man whom she considers her personal Scrabble enemy, she runs into the bathroom, hides in a stall, and does a fist pump while repeatedly whispering “I beat you!” Here, Gay shines as a unique personality that I wanted to get to know better.

Many of the essays left me feeling just…bad. I get that we have to go to uncomfortable places to understand societal issues, but sometimes the negativity left me with no direction. For instance, when Roxane Gay discusses movies, she hates the recent movies that discuss black lives because she’s tired of seeing stories about slaves. She’s over it. But, she barely talks about movies about contemporary black lives that she does support. She lists a few–Love & Basketball, The Best Man, The Best Man Holiday–but she doesn’t say much about them. She gives more attention to Fruitvale Station, but it wasn’t always clear what made this movie better. I do understand that Gay is pointing out that people of color shouldn’t feel thankful simply because they’re included: “Here is popular culture about people who look like me. That’s all I should need, right? Time and again, people of color are supposed to be grateful for scraps from the table. There’s this strange implication that we should enjoy certain movies or television shows simply because they exist.” However, I felt that without some guidance as to what kinds of movies/TV she feels would be successful representations of black lives, the book left me just feeling grumpy, and not supportive.

Some of the articles brought together media quotes, such as “The Alienable Rights of Women”. What was interesting is that Gay used quotes from articles off of social media that I remember seeing when they first were released, typically stupid things conservatives have said about rape, contraception, and abortion. The essay puts these quotes together and adds some information from how abortions were conducted centuries ago, but I struggled to see what Gay was contributing that was new. Part of the blogging world is collating information and adding our two cents; however, in book form, the essay had less impact because it is now a “million” years old in internet time. Mostly, I gathered that the current politics around reproductive rights scares the author.

Where Roxane Gay shined the most was when she was right in her element: discussing literature. Gay analyzes her love of the Hunger Games series and how damaging the Fifty Shades series is to women. She looks at how women who behave badly are hated by critics, and that people often attribute mental illness to such characters. In another essay, “Beyond the Measure of Men,” Gay explores the publishing industry and how it is gender biased:

“There are books written by women. There are books written by men. Somehow, though, it is only books by women, or books about certain topics, that require this special ‘women’s fiction’ designation, particularly when those books have the audacity to explore, in some manner, the female experience, which, apparently, includes the topics of marriage, suburban existence, and parenthood, as if women act alone in these endeavors, wedding themselves, immaculately conceiving children, and the like.”

In this essay, she gives the readers something to chew on, something we can do:

The solutions are obvious. Stop making excuses. Stop saying women run publishing. Stop justifying the lack of parity in prominent publications that have the resources to address gender inequity. Stop parroting the weak notion that you’re simply publishing the best writing, regardless. There is ample evidence of the excellence of women writers. If women aren’t submitting to your publication or press, ask yourself why, deal with the answers even if those answers make you uncomfortable, and then reach out to women writers.

Although I can’t expect one author to offer solutions to every issue that plagues a nation, when she does give some ideas, I finished the essay and wanted to take action. I’m not asking to leave each essay with warm and fuzzies, but in contrast, so many were negative and without suggestions that the collection began to wear on me, like someone telling me I’m unhealthy and saying I should do something about it, but not brainstorming suggestions to get me started. “Beyond the Measure of Men,” with its advice, gave me room to breathe.

In the end, I wanted more breathe room, more Roxane Gay herself. Unfortunately, at times, she drowns out her own voice by quoting media and bringing up enormous issues with no hope of addressing them or working to correct those problems, even in small ways, even in ways that she herself practices.

A Child is Being Killed

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Carolyn Zaikowski’s novel A Child is Being Killed (Aqueous Books, 2013) is brief, often poetic, and a cerebral look into the life of a girl who has been given by her father to a man named Corey, whom she is forced to marry, in order to create business liaisons. At one point, the novel hints that the girl is 15, but the information that enters her world is scattered and quickly delivered, for she is mostly kept in a closet to be raped by Corey and his friends. Later, Corey moves the girl to the attic and gives her a dog. She is taken to a lab (and possibly experimented on; this is where the book becomes a bit surreal). The girl claims to have a friend in a man named Zaster, whom we meet occasionally, and Consuelo, a woman who works as an assistant to the girl’s father, but who also falls in love with the girl. I refer to her as “the girl” because she is that–a child–but she is also stripped of her identity. First, she is Jalamar, then she is told she will be called Addy, and then she mutates into a second persona named Shrap.

It is the divisions of personality that demonstrate that Zaikowski is breaking the girl down as a result the violence forced on her. Shrap is the more “hearty” character, the one who can help the girl live outside of her body while it is repeatedly being violated. The name is a secret that only those the girl loves, which includes her dead mother and eventually Consuelo, can know. What Zaikowski is doing is not unheard of, but Shrap is unique in that she is not much braver or strong-willed than the girl; she seems more like a substitute so that the girl doesn’t have to be herself while she is being killed:

“Shrap’s been destroyed before being born. All that’s left now is her body, and you’re content to destroy that too. Shrap will never really die, but no matter what happens, you will always be killing her….Shrap can be physically manipulated and maybe even physically destroyed, but she will always be alive and well, in an untouchable place above and beyond you.”

The author also makes some clever allusions throughout her novel, one of them being to the importance of literacy and creating malcontent slaves. When the girl was a person with a name, she was allowed to read books–allowed. Since books educate and get people thinking about the justice and fairness of their situations, Corey takes them away from Shrap. She remembers:

“He opened the closet door as wide as it would go and put [the books] down in front of me, just beyond the threshold. Some of them he ripped dramatically, but he got tired and threw the rest into the fireplace on the other side of the room. I watched the cremation of Madame BovaryThe Little PrincessLeaves of Grass, and a lot of Shakespeare. I could still smell the word inferno after he locked me back in.

There are also allusions to Cinderella that quickly establishes the girl more kind and everyone else more horrible. The girl’s best friends are animals, namely a rat she finds in the closet and the lab rats that she discovers later when she is taken to be experimented on (I think). Kindness toward an animal that is typically extinguished without question creates parallels between the animal and the girl, as she is being extinguished each day. When the girl and Consuelo plan to free the lab rats, they also work as a metaphor for releasing the girl. It is only when Consuelo lies that she can get the girl away from Corey and her father.

At times, when the novel is more surreal, such as scenes that take place in the lab, I wasn’t sure if Zaikowski was creating an elaborate second world that the girl creates to make sense of her abuse. Is the lab/experimenting actually the girl in the attic and men raping her while others stand by and do nothing? Because the setting of the lab is more blurry than concrete, I tended to assume it was a cerebral experience and had no difficulty following the story.

The only problem with the lab’s realness is Consuelo, whom the girl meets in the lab. Consuelo seems more like a dream than a flesh-and-blood woman. She is kind to the girl and seems to know what is happening to her (the rape, the experiments), but doesn’t contact the authorities to make it stop. Instead, Consuelo and the girl fall in love and plan to free the lab rats, a far less pressing issue that the girl’s own situation, except the rats are most likely a metaphor for the girl anyway.

The repeated violations of the girl’s body and spirit are kept at a distance from the reader when Zaikowski doesn’t describe the many rape scenes that are the result of Corey charging his friends for access to the girl, or times Corey is beating her. However, these scenes are also closer than a reader might expect when the girl asks about what is happening to her, presumably while it is happening:

“Your faces, a bunch of paintings to be slashed with a knife. I want to know, am I supposed to ask, are you happy? If not, did you get your money back? Is your payment pending for these services or is the deal wrapped up? I am not supposed to ask: Would you like a receipt with my blood on it? With my phlegm? Do you ever see through anyone else’s eyes? Do you get scared, excited, repelled? Do you see better? More clearly? Do you understand anything about anything? Are you alive? What happens to the rest of us if you are not, if you are in an iceberg, an impenetrable border?”

By staying out of the action and remaining in the girl’s head, Zaikowski effectively takes the story away from the rapist and gives it back to the victim to analyze and tell.

Overall, A Child is Being Killed effectively tells a story of removing the brain from the body to survive. The story doesn’t focus on the graphic nature of violence, but the cerebral coping mechanisms that a victim can create while maintaining her humanity and deep love for life.

You can read more of Zaikowski’s thoughts about her writing in my previous interview with the author.

Sorrow

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Sorrow
by Catherine Gammon
Braddock Avenue Books, 2013
304 pages

Sorrow: a novel that surprises in the way that it waits. It waits for a good long time before surprising readers with the snake that springs out to grab with its fangs. This snake isn’t the poisonous kind, per se, but more like the boa constrictor that bites and then squeezes and squeezes and waits.

Anita is a grown woman living with her mother in an apartment in New York City in a building whose residents are familiar with one another in ways you won’t expect. Cruz Garcia, the building’s maintenance man, is in love with Anita, but denies himself sexual acknowledgment. Tomás is Cruz’s nephew from El Salvador who came into the U.S. to send money to his family, but also falls in love with Anita. Magda Ramirez is the Colombian widow who is a mere forty years old but has denied herself happiness since her husband’s murder who goes on to find joy in sickness. Each tenant comes with a dark past that affects each and every day of their lives, especially Anita. When her mother is murdered, the tenants must take care of the suffering daughter left behind and make up their own minds about what really happened.

At first, I was uncertain as to where the novel was going. The beginning pages describe Anita’s co-worker whom she makes uncomfortable. However, he’s not seen again. The really important parts don’t come until around page 70. Before that, I admit I felt lost and kept waiting for something to happen. Anita lays around a lot and thinks about killing her mother. I wasn’t certain as to why for quite some time. There seems to be little to know about Anita, or her mother. We’re not told why a grown woman is living with her mother, who is able-bodied, instead of married or dating. The novel would have done just as well without many of these 70 pages of what I felt was idling.

It’s difficult to discuss Gammon’s novel because it’s unclear what is a “spoiler” versus what the novel is about. Braddock Avenue’s synopsis describes the tenants of Anita’s building and claims the novel is “gripping.” Pittsburgh Magazine writes very little about Sorrow, claiming, “To disclose more about the plot would be a disservice to the reader.” I’m going to go out there on a limb and say that this book has more about sexual abuse–and it is described in greater detail–than any other book I’ve ever encountered. The way it affects both abused and abuser emotionally. The things people do to balance their lives as a result of that abuse. The way outsiders respond to abused and abuser.

At one point Anita is sucking her thumb and holding her hand over her vagina and anus because she’s worried that the effects of the abuse–the poison it’s left inside her–will get out. This is when I couldn’t stop thinking about the novel. I know people who have been abused. I know those who have been abusers. I’ve never thought about the realness of it to which Gammon exposed me. Here is where I began reading faster and more regularly. The author makes what is unnatural to many seen normal, and what is normal seem corrosive.

If you can get through the first part of the novel knowing that things will become intense enough for three novels, and if you hang on during the letter Anita receives from a man in prison who becomes a bit too reflective (and I think the point of view changes, but I’m not sure why) and you come out on the other side, then you will not forget this novel.

MaddAddam

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MaddAddam
by Margaret Atwood
Read by Bernadette Dunne, Bob Walter, & Robbie Daymond
Random House, 2013
11 CDs

It takes a long time to get through an audiobook, what with all those pauses and feelings the voice actors insert. Novels for the ears became just when I needed when I decided it was time to workout a bit more than not at all. After teaching Oryx and Crake last fall, I decided it was good to listen to The Year of the Flood before I forgot everything I knew about the complex characters and world Atwood created. Of course, it was my Facebook feed that led me to realize MaddAddam had just come out in September, and if I waited to listen to it, if I put it in the queue, I would forget all of book two. These are long books, people. And thus began my month-long journey with MaddAddam.

MaddAddam picks up right where The Year of the Flood left off. Atwood is good and ending her books in this series with characters about to enter the frame, but we don’t know who or perhaps why. This time, it’s the Crakers who are coming to help Ren, Toby, and Jimmy who are trying to rescue Amanda from two Painballers. Atwood takes readers both back into Zeb’s and Adam One’s past and forward into the war between humans/Crakers/pigoons and Painballers.

Most of it is Zeb telling Toby the story of who he is so that she can retell it to the Crakers. You see, they heard Zeb say, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a bear,” so now they want to know if he is a bear or has a connection to bears. We learn who Zeb’s brother is and why Zeb, who didn’t really fit in, lived with the God’s Gardeners group. If you liked Zeb in the second book of the trilogy, then this is juicy stuff for you. Zeb knows computers, he likes to swear and irritate his brother, and we get full disclosure of his sexual history. Then again, readers have to ask if we need to know more about Zeb. I felt that it was important because his fringe behavior made no sense in book two; he couldn’t simply be the rebel.

Amazingly, three characters come up pregnant at the same time, and the possible fathers– Painballers as a result of rape? Crakers as a result of a cultural misunderstanding (rape)? Someone in the Cobb house?–makes readers ask: does a child who is the product of rape deserve to be loved by its mother? Atwood takes what I consider the easy road when we learn the biological beginnings of these babies when she really had an opportunity to poke at the readers in a post-apocalyptic world and make us uncomfortable. Things started to get comfortable, is what I’m saying.

The book ends with the war between “the good guys” (humans, the Craker translator boy named Blackbeard, and pigoons) and the “bad guys” (Painballers who have been punished so severely by society that they have no human emotions). The sub-species troops of “good guys” made for some interesting juxtapositions to what we’ve read earlier, in the first book for example, when the pigoons are going to eat Jimmy. If the Painballers are captured, the “good guys” must decide what will done with/to them. I put “good guys” in quotes because the levels of good vary by specie. The Crakers have no knowledge of violence or why it would be committed, whereas the humans have person bones with the Painballers. Even the pigoons have reasons for wanting the Painballers dead, but their treatment of the bodies would be different. Atwood uses the political commentary here on the death penalty to make readers question whether justice would prevail in a post-apocalyptic world or if the personal opinions of the most affected group would win over. This is where Atwood succeeds in getting readers to think.

However, she also has characters suggest that they are the only ones on the whole planet, but we’re talking about somewhere in the United States. A medium-sized group of people, almost all of whom knew each other before the “flood,” were able to reconnect. Either this is coincidence at its best, or there are a lot of other people out there we’re not meeting. Would the biggest threat be two Painballers? What if the focus had been more on restoring order? Perhaps the potential I’m seeing in MaddAddam would rehash what we’ve already read in Lord of the Flies, which is why I ultimately wanted the book to stop after we learned about Zeb. He was a great addition to the cast in the second book, rugged and loyal, but one who couldn’t be “tamed.” I was more interested in him than Ren and wondered if a third book was necessary if Ren had been removed and Zeb’s history inserted into The Year of the Flood. Sure, Ren connects us to Jimmy later on, but did we need so many connections?

Atwood’s trilogy is so long and time consuming that you might stop at Oryx and Crake and be satisfied. If you think you’re going to come away with something–some message or final emotion on which to settle–you may be disappointed. Everyone dies because we must. This seems to be Atwood’s way of ending her books: everyone you cared about has died from natural causes or murder or reasons unknown, which isn’t necessarily fulfilling.

Rampart & Toulouse

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Rampart & Toulouse by Kristin Fouquet
Rank Stranger Press, 2011
117 pages

Rampart & Toulouse is shorty of a book, including three brief stories and ending with a novella. The first piece, “Becoming Obsolete,” is the shortest by far. It follows two men, the owner of a business that fixes refrigerators–Lucky, who can’t smell–and his apprentice, Chris. I couldn’t believe the first story I read for my ladies-only website was about two men!

Marching on!

“Becoming Obsolete” was too short, in my opinion. Fouquet opened questionable doors and slammed them shut quickly. The first client of the day is Miss Millie, whose fridge won’t work, but Lucky can’t fix it because it needs what the E.P.A. forbids: Freon. Miss Millie can’t afford a new fridge. What happens to the old lady, who we’re told doesn’t take to white people? The next job is to change the light bulb in the fridge. The homeowners alone are a novel’s worth of story, but the door is closed in my face! What happens, and could Lucky’s inability to smell play a role? Both “Varietals” and “Paris is the Pretty One” continue in the same fashion. I felt that just when Fouquet was hitting her stride, the story ended abruptly.

Another element of these three short pieces was a tendency to tell the reader what’s going on, rather than show (the cardinal rule of writing). I don’t think that Fouquet is a weak writer, but perhaps one who worries that she isn’t communicating effectively with her audience. Case in point, when a narrator learns that her sister Claire is being committed to a mental hospital just before the narrator leaves for a high school trip to Paris, the narrator can’t help but think of Claire constantly. Fouquet provides beautiful imagery that I could interpret on my own: “The ornate gilded elevator [in the Paris hotel] was more beautiful than any I had ever seen. Yet I felt suspicious of it, a lovely cage to entrap. Claire.” The image suggested trapping, as elevators tend to, but this elevator even has bars, making the idea clearer, and more beautiful. Perhaps we do not need “entrap,” or a reminder of “Claire.” These “flags,” placed there to ask readers, “Are you following me, because this is where I’m going!” were not necessary.

The longer the story, the better Fouquet is! I enjoyed my time in her novella of the same name as the collection. Twenty-three-year-old Vivienne Diodorus rents a room in a house on the corner of Rampart and Toulouse, who claims the room is fantastic for its natural light. She can’t pay her electric bill, but finds creative ways to get along, including hanging out with the kindly Irish priest (a cliched description, unfortunately) and the homeowner “Sweet Sue,” an obese black-skinned woman who calls Vivienne “honey child” upon meeting her (again, unfortunately, cliched, and I cringed a bit here). But! Neither the priest nor Sweet Sue are cliched in personality. They were funny, had interesting histories (the priest performs a baptism for a litter of puppies dressed in christening gowns for a rich gay couple), and cared for Vivienne. My favorite character, though, was Lance, whom we think is a metal head but reveals himself to be an Elizabeth Taylor fan. Vivienne and Lance watch a Liz Taylor film together and share a personal moment:

“He reached over and pulled her hair up to her chin. ‘You know, with a cut, you could have Liz’s hair.’ Vivienne’s normal reaction of avoidance was replaced by entertainment. Instead of the reflex to pull back, she reached for his long hair. ‘I believe you could, too.’ His wide smile exposed a few crooked teeth. He emitted an unexpected squeal. ‘I’ll do mine if you do yours.’ Perhaps it was the alcohol, but she agreed. ‘Let’s do it right now.’”

Overall, I thought Fouquet’s strengths were her ideas. I dare her to write more, to push harder, and produce some longer works to fully expose the talents she has.