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.
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.
“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.
Christine Sloan Stoddard, an American-Salvadoran author based in Brooklyn New York, tells stories in magical and hauntingly beautiful ways. Her topics, which often deal with women and their suppression within society, create real feeling characters and intense moments for her readers to resonate with. Her recent published book, Naomi and the Reckoning, is a firecracker of a novelette. With a mixed media vibe, Stoddard intertwines poems, artwork, and a short story that form a cohesive and memorable read.
Finding Sanctity in Suffering
Review: Sacred Groves: Or, How a Cemetery Saved My Soul
Bedazzled Ink Publishing, pp. 262
In her memoir Sacred Groves: Or, How a Cemetery Saved My Soul, Kathleen Davies examines the concept of identity through the lens of a novice female professor. Through her experiences as an outcast and stepping into new territories, Davies finds her purpose in life—ironically in a Victorian graveyard. The cemetery magically holds parallel to her internal battles in ways that are enlightening and serve as a heaven on earth in a world full of uncomfortable encounters. Not only does her muse scream at her, surrounded by mesmerizing architectural beauties in nature, but she has a self-awakening among her observations. Told with poems, witty snippets from her journey, and photographs of headstones and mausoleums taken with her own camera, Davies breathes life into the inanimate statues and lifeless tombs, making the local graveyard her “feminine space,” almost like a garden. By describing such a serene place using textures and voiced appreciations, Davies not only provokes imagination for herself, but also for the reader. She remarkably navigates through the unknown and speaks her truth with such vulnerability, revealing that through suffering, humans often find hidden truths.