→Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson
| ★★★★★ | released in 2000 |
Do you like people making you be not real?
Oh my god this was brilliant. This short story collection is sci-fi fantasy and has so much to say about gender, and the Gaze, and Nalo Hopkinson’s writing is honest to god so good.
I think Hopkinson sums up this collection quite well in this interview:
As a young reader, mimetic fiction (fiction that mimics reality) left me feeling unsatisfied. The general message that I got from it was “life sucks, sometimes it’s not too bad, but mostly people are mean to each other, then they die.” But, rightly or wrongly, I felt as though I’d already figured that out. I felt that I didn’t need to read fiction in order to experience it.
It’s a use of fantasy and sci-fi as something horrifying, yes, but something that leads to truth, catharsis, release.
I also want to mention before starting these reviews, that I essentially enjoyed every story here: a lot of my four-stars probably could’ve been five stars in any other collection; I just felt weird rating almost every story a five, so I was pickier than I usually would’ve been. My ratings came down to personal taste and I think every single story in this book is worth reading. (Unless you can’t handle Snake, which was one of my favorites but also a lot.)
➽Riding the Red ★★★★★
About a grandmother, a wolf, the question of which is which, and a repeated story, revolving around each year. A haunting introduction.
➽The Money Tree ★★★★☆
About a sister, a brother, a golden table, a river, and the valuation of human life. This was a cool class discussion.
➽Something to Hitch Meat To ★★★★★
A story about reality and the colonial gaze. This was one of my favorites.
A story about justice. This was a lot. The ending is so good. TW, [pedophilia. (hide spoiler)]
➽Under Glass ★★★☆☆
A story about a glass wind. One of the most gorgeously written pieces. I don’t think I really got the message of this.
➽The Glass Bottle Trick ★★★★★
A story about womanhood and the power of ghosts and yes, reminded me a lot of Snake. I know what this was inspired by but I don’t want to say because it’s such a cool takeoff you should experience it. TW, [domestic abuse. (hide spoiler)]
➽Slow Cold Chick ★★★★★
A story about a giant bird, queerness, and the voicing of desire. This is so good, one of my absolute favorites.
A story about gender. This is honestly like, 70% porn. The only one with no fantasy elements, but still feels suited to being here?
➽Tan-Tan and Dry Bone ★★★☆☆
A fairy tale-style story set in the world of Midnight Robber. Love Tan-Tan. I don’t think I got this.
➽Greedy Choke Puppy ★★★★☆
A story about greed, vampirism, and the reality of folklore. Very creepy. Relies about 75% on a twist that I saw coming.
➽A Habit of Waste ★★★★☆
A story about skin liminality, the rejection of the body due to racism and the gaze, and realizing your body can still be correct. I liked this one a lot.
➽And the Lillies-Them A-Blow ★★★★☆
A very haunting story about hearing the song of bones, and about different kinds of death.
➽Whose Upward Flight I Love ★★★☆☆
One page long story about trees. Probably deserves better for what it is — time to read more flash fiction and attempt to understand it, as a genre.
➽Ganger (Ball Lightning) ★★★★★
A story about a futuristic sex toy and submitting to the mortifying ordeal of being known. The gender of it all. I wish this weren’t like, 70% porn, but the ending slapped so hard.
A story about being loved vs. being owned. This was one of my favorites in the book and an absolutely perfect ending.