Most of us are familiar with the concept of the seven deadly sins: gluttony, envy, wrath, lust, sloth, to name a few. Alice Kaltman embraces these sins—along with their virtuous counterparts—in her short story collection, Almost Deadly, Almost Good. She personifies the sins in her complex characters while exploring an equal number of virtues. Her stories depict the tragedies and triumphs of human nature. Characters embodying gluttony, envy, and wrath seem to be in a constant state of inner conflict and turmoil while those who practice kindness, humility, and patience have better outcomes.
“For all the mutts.”
Dela Torre, the most recent chapbook from poet and essayist Dani Putney, opens with this dedication. Simple and effective, they give no other preface before diving into 20-some pages of raw, emotional poetry where they break down their own mixed-race heritage, the history of their parents, and tear into colonialism with sharpened teeth. While Dela Torre runs rife with various themes about identity and family, there is one through-line that can be felt in each and every one of these poems— anger.
While it’s typical for media to display love under rose-colored lenses, The Geography of First Kisses by Karin Cecile Davidson shows the in-betweens of romance. Davidson reveals the love, loss, and nostalgia of relationships through the use of fully realized characters and descriptive language. With each short story, the characters feel close enough to the reader’s heart that it’s easy to trick the brain into thinking the whole book was about them from cover to cover.
Carefully balancing lyric poem conventions with a bold delineation of human emotion, Jennifer Soong plays with different aesthetic forms in her most recently released collection, Suede Mantis / Soft Rage. Soong explores a variety of poetic compositions–it is a project of the mind, a submittance to raw emotions in exchange for a curious, but risqué, visual sorting of thoughts.
As with any book review, I know I have an obligation to remain professional in the following paragraphs. But Juniper Fitzgerald forces me to be personal in every letter that bleeds through the choreographed motion of my fingertips on this keyboard. I almost want to conduct this as an open letter to Juniper, a “thank you” note that wouldn’t be nearly as impactful as I hope it could be. But that wouldn’t be fair to Fitzgerald or her story, or to the stories of Jean, and Cassandra, and her Grandma, and Theresa, and Diana, and Marita, and Anita, and Dakota, and Andi, and Jennifer.
Trigger Warnings: Sexual abuse/assault, sexism, sexual violence, consensual yet gore sexual descriptions.