Posted on Leave a comment

Weird Black Girls, by Elwin Cotman

Review copy provided by the publisher.

One of the great skills in life, I have found as an adult, is knowing when you’re not part of a conversation. Sometimes you’re allowed to sit in on the conversation while your friend and their sibling talk about family stuff, but that doesn’t mean you’re part of the family, it just means you’re here for it. A lot of the stories in Weird Black Girls are very much in that category: am I actually part of the conversation about the use of violent punishment in Black American families as an attempt to ward off white violence from Black children and/or a reflection of white violence through the parents, refracted through a fantastical lens? I sure am not. That is someone else’s conversation I am sitting here listening to. And while these stories are not all that specifically, a lot of them touch on themes that are not really mine to dig into. It’s not “I’m not the target audience for this” in the sense of “I don’t appreciate this work,” because I did appreciate this work. It’s “I’m not the target audience for this” in the sense of “I am literally not the person being addressed here.” But I can still stand by and find it interesting.

What I can say is that this is a short story collection with a great deal of range. The voices of the characters are distinct, and their settings and speculative elements vary extremely. Whether they’re exploring a Boston that jutted suddenly into the sky in an alternate history or running a convention LARP tournament that’s suddenly populated by fantastical figures from anime, each character has their own voice, their own yearnings and grudges and firmly situated milieu that are totally absorbing. There’s big thematic stuff here, but there’s also the tiny finely drawn characterization that keeps me around for the theme to have a chance to sink in. The shape of the speculative conceits is never “oh, another one of those” but always firmly his own. Highly recommended.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *