Set in Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love, Gwendolyn Kiste’s Reluctant Immortals, gives voice to two often forgotten women of literature — Lucy Westenra from Dracula and Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre. Having both been turned immortal against their will, the two women band together in the face of an eternity in which they must continually fight off the control of the men who changed them. When Dracula and Rochester make a sudden return, the two women draw on the strength of their sisterhood to make a stand and claim their own power and space in the world.
I recently spoke with Kist about her novel and the writing life in an interview published on Interstellar Flight Magazine. In the interview, she notes:
“Women’s voices have so often been silenced. That’s true of real-life women as well as female characters. We tend to be seen as being less important to the world and less important to storytelling. You can see this throughout literature, and while it’s been getting better over the last few years, we still have a long way to go.”
Recently, I put together a list of “the best fantastical and frightening books about women reclaiming their own power” for the Shepherd website, which aims to help folks discover new books. Generally, I balk at using the phrase “the best,” since there are so many more amazing books in the world that I had yet to read. However, this is the format the website uses.
As per the request of the editors, I specifically picked books that felt connected to my collection of prose poetry, Twelve. This means that I wanted to include a mixture of prose and poetry books, as well as focusing on books that are connected to fairy tales and/or folklore. And truthfully, I love each and every one of these books and I hope many other folks come to love them, too.
If I were allowed to expand my list to beyond the five I listed, I would also included any or all of the following (to name a few):
- Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom (which I just completed at the end of December)
- Goddess of Filth by V. Castro
- Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
- The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
- Circe by Madeline Miller
- Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Transformations, poems by Anne Sexton
- Drink, poems by Laura Madeline Wiseman
- The Moment of Change (a collection of feminist fantasy poetry), edited by R.B. Lemburg
And I’m sure I will discover many more such books of fantastical and frightening female empowerment in the future.
It’s been a pretty great reading year for me. I might have not have hit as many books as in years past, but the quality of books that I’ve read this year have been stellar (and I have a few more great books in the stack that I’ll likely finish by year’s end).
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
Nghi Vo’s Siren Queen unfolds the story of Luli Wei, a talented and beautiful Chinese American woman, who is desperate to become a star in pre-code Hollywood. In order to do so, she navigate the fair-like realm of the Hollywood system, which exacts a sharp (and sometimes deadly) price on those who long for fame. The magic here is at once beautiful, wicked, and mundane.
Vo’s prose is rich and lyrical, evoking a sense of magic, menace, and desire on nearly every page. Siren Queen is a work of art; it is powerful and evocative — a book that I plan to read again and again.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
The City We Became is another masterpiece from N.K. Jemisin. It presents a vision of New York City as a living creature about to be born with a human avatar — except a dark presence nearly aborts the process and the avatars of various boroughs (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island) are awakened to hold back the tide of darkness.
Jemisin is a phenomenal writer, and the story she unfolded in this book made me fall in love with a place I have never been. I cannot wait for a sequel.
Continue reading “Books I Loved Reading in 2022”
Among the many other challenges presented this year, my reading has dropped significantly. As of writing this, I’ve finished reading a total of 40 books this year â€” certainly not bad in the grand scheme of things, but far below my personal average of 90-100 books from a few years ago.
Though, I can’t blame the drop entirely on 2020 (for all it’s anxiety and stress), since my reading has been dropping each year. In general, I’ve had a more difficult time focusing on reading, particularly longer books. So, I’ve shifted somewhat to shorter, quicker reads.
Nevertheless, I’ve read many fantastic books this year â€” more than I can fit on this list. Lately, I’ve been wanting to get back into reading more of the horror genre (which I’ve been writing lately as well). Horror seems to hit a certain intellectual itch in me, providing a safe means to explore and process my anxieties. So, it’s no surprise that horror fiction makes up a large portion of the works mentioned here.
(ETA: If you want to know the movies, shows, and other media I loved this year, check out my post on Medium.)
Continue reading “Books I Loved in 2020”
About halfway through the month, the impact of the novel corona virus became clear, with the Bay Area counties where I live issuing a shelter-in-place order in order to limit the virus’ spread. Everyone I know has been impacted by this. For me, personally, this has meant that I’ve been working from home â€” with a change in how I interact with media. My reading and podcast listening was down last month, movie watching and gaming was up.
I only completed one book during the month of March â€” Gwendolyn Kiste’s novella Pretty Marys All in a Row. Each night Resurrection Mary wanders a lonely highway, waiting for a driver to come by and pick her up. Once inside the car, she starts the scares and prepares to feed on their fear. When morning comes she returns home to the other Marys, other urban legends who fill the night with terror â€” Bloody Mary, Mary Mack, Mari Lwyd, and Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary.
As a family bound together in their ghostly state and need to feed, they gather together and share the scares of the night, supporting each other when the scares are few. But when the scares grow further and further apart, they will have to fight for their own deathly existence.
I loved the idea of bringing together these embodiments of urban legends. They each have their own strong personalities and have created their own powerful bonds with the few people who believe in them. In general, I just love seeing women come together as friends and family, women who stand up and fight for their place and bodies and rights to exist in the world. A fun, quick, smart read.
Continue reading “Culture Consumption: March 2020”