Stunning. These stories are raw, unresolved, crystalline, and opaque at the same time. The words ache with talent.
Emotional resonance: ★★★★★
Strength of collection: ★★★★
First off, a short callout to Call Number Box (pun intended) for bringing this short story collection to my attention. Call Number Box is a quarterly book subscription that focuses on new Black literature and is curated with a very cool librarian vibe (we get call numbers, library stickers, etc.).
On to the collection now. Milk Blood Heat was, to put it simply, stunning. I don't have much more to say on the subject without rambling endlessly, so instead, enjoy some short thoughts on each of the stories:
Milk Blood Heat - 5 stars
A heavy opener. Two girls turn 13, become blood sisters despite their skin color. Only one girl makes it through, and she's left to pick apart the duality of life.
Feast - 5 stars
This one is definitely a trigger warning: avoid it if you have sensitivity for miscarriages and bodily discussions. One woman can't move on from an early miscarriage and her obsession consumes her.
Tongues - 4.5 stars
Tackling the patriarchal nonsense at the heart of hardcore Christianity, this is another coming-of-age story packed with teeth. Shivers abound from some of those lines.
The Loss of Heaven - 4 stars
Fred is an aging man. Fred thinks he is important and that the flirting bartender authentically cares for him—it helps him avoid thoughts of his dying wife. Fred is wrong. This was a longer story and while excellent, I have to be honest, I wish this collection had been entirely female.
The Hearts of Our Enemies - 5 stars
Mothers and daughters, both realizing that the other is just a woman, making choices in a man's world filled with snakes.
Outside the Raft - 3 stars
This one was my personal least favorite of the bunch. It's a survival story of two young girls in a deadly moment on the water, and while well-told it wasn't memorable in this all-star collection.
Snow - 4.5 stars
I feel conflicted about this one. Maybe it's because I've been there before - a woman unsatisfied in her circumstance... but is she actually unsatisfied, or is she just in need of a reality check?
Necessary Bodies - 5 stars
This one was a PUNCH. A woman is pregnant, she hasn't told her mother, and she's ruminating her ultimate choices as she plans her mother's birthday party. I loved the ending.
Thicker Than Water - 4.5 stars
Obviously this collection is filled with heavy topics, so this initial road trip story is much darker than it first appears—and the beginning is already pretty grim. I liked it for its complexities, I disliked it for its complexities. Strong emotions.
Exotics - not rated
Commentary on the dehumanization of society from the eyes of the "elite." Another one with some chills, albeit small ones as this story was so short.
[Last story, which I have forgotten] - unrated
I'm typing this up away from my copy, and I've forgotten this one. Will update the review when I can.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.