spec fiction
the KIS.list: January 2012


Salvage the Bones: A Review

I've just finished reading Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones. I spent the first third of the novel wondering what was it about this book that distinguished itself as a winner over any other finalists for the National Book Award, the following two thirds of the book showed me with a resounding roar exactly why it had won. I know some people tried to read it and never finished it, but I believe the book is a worthwhile read that moves you to see hope--and yourself--in characters mired in a hopeless place. I found myself wanting to encourage others to read the book, so I've written a review of the book on Goodreads. I share the first two paras of the review below. http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/1973228-salvage-the-bones-by-jesmyn-ward I like books that take you somewhere. That thunder forward with the strength of a tornado, lifting you from whatever milieu you inhabit and dumping you right into another life; takes you by the hand and coaxes you to step into another skin, another soul. Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones does just that. She sets the tone right from the beginning. The first chapter establishes the family. The main character, Esch, is remembering her mother and her brother’s dog as a puppy. Those memories give way to the revelation that the dog, China, is now having babies—and that Esch’s mother died post-childbirth after bringing her younger brother Junior to Earth. Ward lets you know from the first pages that this will not be a pristine journey—it will be full of dust and mucus, pain and blood.


I Wish You Loss

We are so captivated by our collective myth of the happy ending, that we rarely acknowledge the amount of loss that can be involved in getting there.”—Katherine Woodward Thomas. Happy 2012. It may strike you as strange that I am greeting the new year with a statement about loss, but in the increasingly adult iterations of my existence, I am coming to learn that being at peace with loss is one of the mightiest swords that can be wielded against feelings of frustration, anguish, helplessness, and anger. Quite simply, anything you choose to do, make, or have involves loss. “Our lives are constantly in motion. As such, will continually be asked to give up the life we have for the life we are creating” (Katherine Woodward Thomas). This is true of artmaking, of parenting, of growing in partnership, of growing your skills and responsibility of a job. When I create, I have to give up something I want to be doing, in order to commit the time to the work. I may have to give up the way I see myself or the way I want the world to see me to be honest and authentic in the writing. In parenting, your parentless self must be suppressed and suffocated in favor of a new selfless person who strives to meet the needs of the child. After the child has grown some, you have to learn which parts of that parentless self to save so that you may proceed with your personal growth and which parts must die completely so that you can be the parent your child deserves. There are so many deaths we must endure: death of the ego, death of thoughtless bliss, death of control, death of certainty, death of dominance, death of hiding, death of fear, death of self-criticism and disrespect of self. These deaths are easier when they are entered into willingly and consciously—a feat that is impossible until you understand that growth is not simply additive: you don’t just acquire more as you grow; it is transformational—you change; you change your addictions, your fables, your fears, and your commitments. People, habits, attitudes, and customs will fall by the wayside. But it is only to make space for your growing stride, your growing self. I wish you many rich and valuable losses this year, losses that clear the way for you—the real, authentic, powerful you—to come to the forefront and bless us with your brilliance. Whenever and wherever your light shines, it also enhances mine. Be well. Be love(d). Kiini Ibura Salaam