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Karla Monterrosa

The Humanization of Chinese Immigrants in Sui Sin Far’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance

The earliest known publication by an author of mixed Chinese and European descent, Mrs. Spring Fragrance: A Collection of Chinese-American Short Stories, chronicles the joys, pains and mostly unknown experiences of early Chinese immigrants on the United States’ West Coast in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Sui Sin Far was actually the pen name for Chinese-British-Canadian-American journalist and writer Edith Eaton (her younger sister, Winnifred Eaton also wrote under a pseudonym, Onoto Watanna), who published the collection in 1912, at a time when anti-Chinese sentiment was raging in America.Read More

Katie Ponder

The Life and Loves of a She-Devil: Jealousy, Transformation, and Revenge

Ruth, wife of Bobbo, mother of Nicola and Andy, mistress of No. 19 Nightbird Drive, a good address in the best London suburb, feels she is “trapped in her body.” Ruth is six-foot-two, unshapely, her awkward form undergirding an indifferent face with a hook nose and three black moles, each sprouting hairs. Ruth’s rival is best-selling romance novelist Mary Fisher: diminutive, blonde, pretty, rich. She’s “accustomed to love,” to lying, and to sleeping with other women’s men.Read More

Evan Johnston

Patricia Highsmith’s Subversion of Crime Fiction in The Talented Mr. Ripley

Crime fiction is typically the discovery of a murder, a set clues that explain how it happened, why it happened, and who is responsible. There are three stories in this formula: there is the story of a crime, the story of solving it, and the reader’s own story of trying to solve the crime. It’s fun maybe the first ten or twenty times you read it.

But what I love about Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley is how artfully the formula is subverted. A brief synopsis:  young Tom Ripley has been sent to convince Richard Greenleaf to return to his wealthy family—who have no idea that they have just bankrolled the man who will murder and impersonate their son.Read More

Jensine Eckwall

Women By Themselves: Radical Portraits in Jayne Anne Phillips’ Black Tickets

Published in 1979, Black Tickets by Jayne Anne Phillips is a collection of short stories and flash fiction that you simply should not deprive yourself of a single day longer. Fair warning: the characters in this world are not “likeable.” Their actions, largely, are not “relatable.” If that’s what you value in fiction, you may find this collection troubling. Read it anyway. The experience will be worth it, I promise.Read More

image: abstracted illustration of a woman's face overlaid with green leaves against a background of water and land in the distance.

A Woman Alone: Navigating the Complication of Belonging in the British West Indies

“They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks.”

So begins Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’ tale of a Creole heiress, Antoinette Cosway, stuck between two worlds she can never fully inhabit. Published to critical acclaim in 1966, the book was envisaged as a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, a way to reclaim the madwoman in the attic, Mr. Rochester’s first wife, by giving her a name and a voice, along with a tragic story.Read More

image: illustration of a ship on waves.

A Coming of Age Story About a Grown Man

It’s hard for people to love you if you don’t love yourself. Or that’s what we’re told again and again if we’re unfortunate enough to struggle with low self esteem. It’s a problematic cliché in that it implies that if you don’t feel lovable – if you are depressed or feel unworthy due to some traumatic experience – you’re right. But as troubling as it is, it is true that it can be hard to love someone who doesn’t seem to understand his or her own worth. A friend who constantly bats away compliments, a lover who regularly asks for reassurance that you want to be with them, a parent who seems always full of regret and guilt. It is hard to love someone when it seems as if there is nowhere for that love to go within that person, when they won’t – or can’t – make a space for it.Read More

image: pink silhouette of a human figure overlaid with a collage of subtle gray outlines of a suitcase, guitar stem, button down shirt, and shoes.

Love in a Sad Café: Carson McCullers’ Forever Dilemma

The Ballad of the Sad Café takes place in the Deep South where McCullers grew up, in the kind of sparse, dried-up town where I imagine some former, blighted America used to reside—a town linked to other towns only by swamps and roads worked by chain gangs and where, in McCullers’ words, “there is absolutely nothing to do.”

Both starting and ending with the image of a boarded-up house, the site of the “sad café,” the story fills the role of the Gothic spinster, moving about her rooms alone like a mournful ghost, with a decidedly un-feeble female. Miss Amelia, a “dark, tall woman with bones and muscles like a man,” is equal parts respected and feared in the town. Read More