Short stories take readers deep into the mind of a queer woman.
Leslie’s (The Things I Heard About You, 2014, etc.) collection follows Soma as she experiences the tumultuous high school years, the disappointment of unsatisfying jobs, the loss of close friends, and the heartbreak that ensues from a destructive and devastating breakup. “Only speak to yourself in a language only you can understand, and then you can put it away forever,” says the narrator in “The Initials.” It’s true that Leslie’s language has a certain precariousness as it oscillates delicately between poetic diction and traditional fiction prose. Her sentences simply capture a feeling or an event with little to no narrative context for readers to anchor themselves in. In the two tour de force stories, “The Person You Want to See” and “Self Help Liturgy,” Soma goes through the motions of grieving the loss of a relationship on social media and the loss of a close friend in real life. Juxtaposed, these two stories paint a portrait of the anxieties of contemporary people, constantly struggling between social media personae and real-life interactions. “What kind of person avoids a memorial on Facebook?” she asks. Or, “Every day parts of her shift and tighten. Parts of her slacken. Soma presses herself until her bones bloom, her arms arc and make more room for more blood. There are gulfs and channels in her body, open spaces she has never known before. She enters them.” This inner struggle Soma faces feels quintessentially human though also anchored in the semiotics of character-making. In a sense, Soma is herself an oscillation, moving between the poetic and the fictional, constantly evolving, constantly making words swerve in countless directions, and captivating readers one sentence at a time.
A magnetic collection that must be read over and over.