Quarantine Reading with Chelsea Stickle
There are collections that are so good that instead of ripping open the packaging they come in and reading until my eye sight’s blurry, I carefully set them aside. Knowing that one day soon, I’ll need them and they’ll be there. Yes, my TBR is out of control. Whether it’s from a dearth of inspiration or a much-needed retreat from the world, flash is always just the right amount of story. Good flash is the knife at your neck that makes you hold your breath until it’s over. Stopping isn’t an option. You must finish the story. In exchange, you leave richer, stronger, and having experienced something unique. Each story is an individual experience that you can’t repeat for the first time. With the monotony of quarantine, that sounded like exactly what I needed. So I started.
Little Feasts by Jules Archer
Little Feasts is full of stories with teeth that sink into you—making you the feast—and you’re glad for it. Stories with women who refuse to accept their circumstances and claw for more. It’s impossible not to root for these characters to fill their stomachs. If you loved Kara Vernor’s Because I Wanted to Write You a Pop Song, then you should definitely check out Jules Archer’s Little Feasts. Pull up a seat, grab an In-N-Out burger and let Little Feasts’ hunger and weirdness call out to your own.
Standout Stories: “Hard to Carry and Fit in a Trunk,” “Skillet” and “Everlasting Full.”
Purchase Link: https://www.thirtywestph.com/shop/littlefeasts
The Missing Girl by Jacqueline Doyle
In the eight stories of The Missing Girl, victims and perpetrators drill in, slowly, slowly, until your equilibrium is off and you’ve been marked in a way you can’t quite explain. Read this chapbook in a gulp and find it hard to swallow after.
Standout Stories: “The Missing Girl,” “Something Like That” and “Nola.”
Purchase Link: https://blacklawrencepress.com/books/the-missing-girl/
The Neverlands by Damhnait Monaghan
The Neverlands might be the chapbook most recommended to me by strangers, teachers, and fellow writers. It tells the story of Nuala and Mammy, alternating in point of view, as they navigate their lives before and after the loss of Nuala’s father. One of the beautiful things about The Neverlands is how the characters go through hell and come out the other side not broken but ready for something new. A little light at the end of the tunnel is just what my quarantine needs.
Standout Stories: “Habits,” “Whiskey” and “Snow, Falling.”
Purchase Link: https://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/p/the-neverlands.html
How to Sit by Tyrese Coleman
Tyrese Coleman’s hybrid collection of non-fiction and not-quite-non-fiction is full of trauma, grief, and guilt. There’s clarity and accounting to the prose that makes each story a force to be reckoned with. Whether it’s the author grappling with assault, the viability of her twins or her Ancestry.com DNA results, expect Coleman to take you through her dark places and survive.
Standout Stories: “Sacrifice,” “V-Day” and “How to Mourn.”
Purchase Link: https://masonjarpress.com/chapbooks-1/how-to-sit
I Once Met You But You Were Dead by SJ Sindu
The cover of Sindu’s chapbook has a hibiscus growing out of a pile of bullets, making it one of the few covers that allows you to judge whether the contents are for you or not. There’s beauty and violence, hope and despair. If you think you know where a story is going, guess again. The energetically queer fiction and non-fiction in I Once Met You But You Were Dead feel like they could only come from Sindu. I Once Met You But You Were Dead is the kind of chapbook you’ll finish in one sitting—it’s thirty-seven pages—before wishing it were longer so you could stay with the voices inside.
Standout Stories: “SR-9,” “Playing Princess” and “Daughterson.”
Purchase Link: https://www.splitlippress.com/ioncemetyoubutyouweredead
Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home by Shasta Grant
In Shasta Grant’s debut collection, Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home, the working class characters are full of longing for new situations, new people, anything to get them out of the ruts they’ve found themselves in. The stories pulse off the page yearning for more, leaving a beautiful bruise that ends on the perfect last sentence, for the story and the collection.
Standout Stories: “Good Enough,” “Us Girls” and “Most Likely To.”
Purchase Link: https://www.splitlippress.com/gatherusupandbringushome
The Way of the Wind by Francine Witte
In Francine Witte’s novella-in-flash, a woman copes with the end of a relationship and the echoes from her past that resurface with the loss of her love, Louie. There’s a cleanliness to Witte’s stories. She’s an author in control of her material, someone to go to when you want a flash that’s straight down the middle. Like The Neverlands, this novella won’t leave you plunged in darkness. And maybe that’s what you need now.
Standout Stories: “Our Neighbor Who Lives Quiet as a Tree,” “Lying” and “The Noise From Down the Hall.”
Purchase Link: https://bookshop.adhocfiction.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=199
Not only did these books break up the monotony of quarantine, but they also yanked me out of reality and gave me a reprieve from the news. If that’s something you’re looking for, pick up one of these books and read your way out.
Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. Her flash fiction appears in CRAFT, Gone Lawn, Tiny Molecules, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. Breaking Points, her debut chapbook, is available for pre-order from Black Lawrence Press (October 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.
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