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YOU GLOW IN THE DARK by Liliana Colanzi Kirkus Star


by Liliana Colanzi ; translated by Chris Andrews

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 2024
ISBN: 9780811237185
Publisher: New Directions

Bolivian writer Colanzi’s latest collection, which earned her the Ribera del Duero International Short Story Prize.

Tinged with futuristic flourishes and set largely in the Bolivian Altiplano, these stories examine the aftermath of terrible trespasses, mostly only whispered about. The opening story, “The Cave,” emerges in fragments—a prehistoric mother, a time traveler, and a pair of star-crossed lovers are just a few who run across the title locale—showing the fleeting transience of people across the arc of time. Most notably, a pair of stories break down the mechanics and the radioactive consequences of colonialism. In the future, “Atomito” is the name of the heroic mascot of an industrial nuclear plant in South America that’s not only poisoning people but also corrupting a society looking for blame. Conversely, the sharp title story that ends the collection shows the raw consequences of a real 1987 event known as the Goiânia accident, in which hundreds were poisoned with radioactivity. Because short stories are fleeting, they’re sometimes lacking in characterization, but Colanzi is gifted at focusing on people during their most intense moments while simultaneously indulging her interest in time and its capacity to bury dark deeds. “The Debt” finds a young woman on the verge of giving birth grappling with her heritage, and “The Narrow Way” shows forbidden fruit’s effect on an isolated faith. Meanwhile, “Chaco” wanders into straight-up horror with the story of a young man possessed by the Indigenous Mataco man he murdered. The longer stories are richer but the shorter entries don’t lose a step. In fact, the most bitter story, “The Greenest Eyes,” concerns a girl who, in a Grimm-like fairy tale, longs for “the mint-colored eyes of her dreams,” only to lose paradise in the process.

The “alien gaze” is a keen instrument for dissecting the human condition, and Colanzi employs it to great effect here.