Guest Post by Madeline Thomas.
When a combination of a Catholic upbringing and the unforgettable viewing of a commercial for The Exorcist sends a young girl’s mind to the inevitability of a personal demon possession, the first steps are taken on a path to parental disappointment. Jessica Power Braun’s “Black Alpaca” places readers at the intersection of religion, generational conflict, and closet-Jesus nightmares with sharp humor and unflinching honesty.
The essay, published in Hippocampus Magazine, works through the realities of fear and guilt in the Catholic Church, the slow movement away from your family’s religious identity, and the discovery of a poignant black alpaca painting in the context of Braun’s identities as a mother, wife, and daughter. Humor forms the heart of the piece, but the essay makes no attempt to pull away from what is both painful and real—forming a balance that cultivates both emotional impact and investment for readers.
In a time where I feel the need for constant breaks from the mire of news and the world in general, the humor and tone present in “Black Alpaca” provides needed relief. Braun utilizes her power in storytelling to craft something worth connecting with.
“Black Alpaca” by Jessica Power Braun. Hippocampus Magazine, January 2021.
Reviewer bio: Madeline Thomas is a graduate student and writer at Utah State University.