Caitlin Vance’s debut short story collection simultaneously stuns and alarms audiences. The Paper Garden’s stories are separate pieces of fiction that instantly draw the reader into their unique and memorable world. The stories range from children’s experiences comprehending the world around them, realistic queer romances, reimagined biblical passages, and stories blanketed in a fresh take on mental illnesses. Where Vance truly shines is utilizing her obscure yet easily understood metaphors, and her ability to transform her character’s voices into meaning that embodies each reader's unique circumstance. Regardless of some of Vance’s collection being centered in a fantastical version of reality, she also utilizes her writing to make light of undeniable truths about religion, relationships, gender, love, and societal norms. What Vance is truly putting forth through her writing is the idea that nothing should be taken at face value, and everything should be questioned for its supposed authority and validity.
Against the backdrop of a slowly dying world, Helene Bukowski writes a beautiful and brutal story about living with trauma, the strain of motherhood, and the danger of fearing the unknown.
In the opening lines of Milk Teeth, Helene Bukowski sets the tone for the story to come: “The fog has swallowed up the sea. It stands like a wall, there, where the beach begins. I can’t get used to the sight of the water. I’m always looking for a bank on the opposite side that could reassure me, but there’s nothing but sea and sky. These days, even this line is blurred.” Beautiful, brutal, and eerily accessible, the story of Milk Teeth is one that peels back the layers we build around fear; it lays them bare along tainted waters and dares its readers to move through the fear and into the beyond.
Hostage: a person seized and used as security for the fulfillment of a condition. Someone who is specifically held captive so that other people will act according to the will of their captors. So what does poet Laura McCullough mean when she likens women to hostages in her newest poetry collection?
Women and Other Hostages is McCullough’s seventh and most recent collection of poetry. Excluding her prologue piece, this collection is split into five separate sections for the reader to view. Her poems act as a looking glass, allowing the reader to experience the world from an entirely female perspective and see the joys and struggles of the everyday woman. The myriad of poems she presents display a range of emotions from the freedom of selfhood found in “Women & The Syntactical World” to the unquestionable pain demonstrated in “The Will.” McCullough pours her soul into each piece and proudly displays her own battles to bolster others.
“Failure to thrive” is the medical term used for the slow development of an infant due to a lack of nutrients. Babies who receive this diagnosis will often have developmental delays later in life. This condition can be the result of an internal, chromosomal issue or the environment around the child. In either case, death is imminent unless there is interference.
Meghan Lamb’s debut novel, Failure to Thrive captures that slow process and the inability to thrive in settings that produce nothing but death and decay. The story takes place in a Pennsylvania coal town poisoned by an underground fire. Divided into three sections, it centers around three families: a young couple struggling to raise a neurodivergent daughter, a woman caring for a dying parent and dealing with the after-effects of her past substance abuse, and a young man dealing with memory loss after a catastrophic accident. Lamb uses genre-bending prose, vivid imagery, and subtle characterization to highlight the major themes of her novel.
“How have our feminist practices, beliefs, and ideals grown and changed as we have, and what does it mean to be a feminist at this moment in our lives?” (11)
It is with this insightful question proposed by Eleanor C. Whitney, that I begin to praise her latest book Riot Woman: Using Feminist Values to Destroy the Patriarchy.
In this memoir, Whitney walks us through her experience of figuring out her feminist agenda through punk rock bands, zines, and the Riot Grrrl movement, which inspired her to become the activist and writer she always aimed to be: “From those words, sung, written and spoken, I began to see that life did not have to happen to me as a woman, but I could empower myself to chart my own course, discover and build community, and proactively make decisions to shape my life” (182). The memoir is a collection of essays that shows the importance of intersectional feminism for the LGBTQ+ community and for Black women, and practicing a feminism that is inclusive and hands-on.