Dispatches from the life of a teen mom and budding feminist from the author of The End of Eve (2014) and Bluebird (2010).
“Write what you know, my women’s lit professor kept saying, but what I knew wasn’t shaped like a story and now I was a sophomore and I needed to write an underground feminist classic.” The protagonist, Ariel Gore, is a young woman trying to care for her baby and go to college while battling against poverty, male violence, her mother’s disappointment, and the idea that there is only one way to tell a story. In the short vignettes collected here, she describes childbirth, romantic disappointment, disordered eating, and artistic frustration. Ariel reads Audre Lorde to her baby and casts spells to protect their rented house from ghosts and hateful neighbors. There is no plot as such, and the only connective tissue linking these scenes is Ariel’s singular voice, by turns sardonic and vulnerable. The author has published memoirs already, and the decision to present stories featuring a protagonist with her own name and a recognizably similar biography as “a novel” is a provocative one. Certainly, it provides formal cover for some of the narrative’s more fantastic moments, such as when a blackbird gives Ariel a secret message and when her mother’s best friend turns into a possum and scurries from the kitchen into the backyard. The shape of the text, too, presents a challenge: it’s a concrete refutation of the idea that all stories should have the same outline. This book mimics the messy, discursive texture of memory—of life. At the same time, Gore’s insistence that Ariel is not her makes perfect sense in a book about the construction of an identity. In choosing novel over memoir, Gore is asserting that she is giving us her art, not her self. The themes Gore explores here are not new for her—in addition to writing fiction and autobiography, she was the founding editor of the parenting zine Hip Mama—but the craft and passion she brings to these topics make her second novel a welcome addition to her oeuvre.
Inventive and affecting.