Eleven short stories mostly first published in well-known literary journals delve into the sinewy reality of our being human animals. The first story explores the emotionally precarious time for female teens. In the second story, “Feast,” Rayna’s miscarriage causes her to experience hallucinations. “I saw the first baby part in a bouquet of marigolds. . . .”
In “Tongues” Zeyah thinks for herself and endures the anger of their pastor and her parents. Gloria is dying of cancer in” The Loss of Heaven,” and Fred doesn’t understand her refusal of more treatments: “He wanted to shake her, grip hard into those bird-boned shoulders until [ . . . ] only a monster would treat a dying person like that.”
In “The Hearts of Enemies” complex mother daughter relationships are derailed with each one’s own private emotions. In “Outside the Raft” the guilt after a near drowning, “I didn’t know how to apologize for wanting to save my own life.” “Exotics” is the shortest story and, for me, absolutely accusatory of our animalistic capacity for cruelty.
Despite some of the subject matter, the stories are uplifting in that we learn about endurance. Moniz exposes truths about our animal-ness that nobody wants to admit or accept as reality and shows us how we might survive anyway. Dantiel W. Moniz is an author unafraid to poke our corporality and the way it blends with our psyches.
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz. Grove, February 2021.
Reviewer bio: While trying to remain hopeful that democracy will survive, Ann Graham reads and writes in Texas. Once in a while, she comments about a short story on her blog: www.ann-graham.com.
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