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.
Stoddard’s novella opens into a scene that many women can understand, and her poem, titled, “A Baby Girl,” takes the reader by their hand and shows them a haunting and morbid, but accurate truth. This truth is swiftly revealed when Stoddard divulges to us, “The moment she breathed her first earthly breath / the stench of sexism stung her hummingbird nostril.” Through the use of alliteration and interjections, Stoddard paints the picture of what life is truly like as a woman, even as an infant. This becomes more than apparent to the reader as they finish the last line in “A Baby Girl,”: “they hate you for what God made you.”
All five poems included in the novelette reveal the silence women are forced to demonstrate. The author’s portrayal of the subdued nature of women in our current society reaches an audience through both bluntly stated phrases and elegantly crafted metaphors. In her poem, “The Almost-Rape,” Stoddard rips into the reader’s chest with a situation all too common for women, “my uncle got whatever he wanted/so when he wanted me/he assumed he’d get me.” In opposition to this plainly-spoken line, Stoddard woos us with her charming use of language in her poem, “A Purity Ball Fashion Statement”: “and you can’t wear red/to a purity ball/So, she wore pink/because she saw no shame/in having nearly tainted waters.”
Included as well in Stoddard’s novella is a short story titled Naomi. This story releases a number of earth-rattling ideals present in the lives of many women, bringing awareness, and almost a sense of relief, to her audience. There is a specific scene within this short story which stands out the most, in terms of how relevant it is to women all over: “‘Mom?’ Her mother was in the bathroom outlining her rosebud lips with magenta. ‘Yeah?’ ‘What’s a condom?’ Naomi’s mother threw her lip pencil in the sink so hard that it snapped but didn’t notice because she was already bounding toward her daughter. She ripped the magazine out of Naomi’s hands. ‘Condoms are for sluts,’ she sputtered and then turned to toss the magazine onto her bed.”
The initial shock of this line sent a shiver up my spine. I, as a woman, felt the intensity of this situation, as other female readers would experience a similar reaction, especially those who have had similar conversations with aunts, grandmothers, mothers, and even close friends. When it comes to the female body, the questions we all have about pleasure are the same. We want to educate ourselves on the things that bring about life. And though they should be beautiful and encouraged, as Stoddard points out in nearly every piece in Naomi & the Reckoning, the exact opposite is evoked from those we want to seek positive reinforcement from.
In this novelette, Stoddard brings forth a question that most women seem to have; why are these things never spoken of? Naomi & the Reckoning divulges the world’s sickening truths about women and how they are treated. She not only brings a certain awareness to the problem at hand, but also discusses a wide range of topics that her female audience can relate to; seeking comfort in the fact that they are not alone, finding a sort of consolation in this age of realization. This novelette was an outstanding read, and I hope to see more of what Stoddard has to offer for females as we attempt to mend the attitude towards who a woman is supposed to be.
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