Passionate complications of love and hate elevate N.K. Jemisin’s novel The Obelisk Gate / Complicaciones apasionadas de amor y odio elevan la novela de N.K. Jemisin, The Obelisk Gate

obelisk_When I reviewed The Fifth Season, the first novel in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, I focused on what the violence in the novel was telling us and how the idea of violence shaped the story and the reader. The second novel in the series, The Obelisk Gate, is about love and hate, the fundamental motivations for all actions. So, if you’re up for a conversation about that, read on–just know that there will be spoilers.

Our hero from the first novel, Essun, is still in the underground community of Castrima where we left her at the end of the first novel. She’s a bit lost herself because she lost her daughter’s trail and doesn’t know how to find her, but she also has found a few people (and others) who care for her, and a place in a community that knows she is an orogene and tolerates her presence nonetheless. Her old love Alabaster has made it to Castrima as well. He is dying after having caused the rift that has brought on a season of destruction, but he tries in his impatient, imperfect way to teach her what she needs to know to finish what he started. No, the objective is not destruction of the world. The objective is an end to the seasons and re-establishing the planetary balance that will make it possible for humans (and others) to thrive again.

The novel also follows Nassun, Essun’s only daughter and surviving child, on her journey south with her homicidal father. Nassun is just leaving childhood, physically, mentally and emotionally, and Jemisin does an outstanding job of portraying the capacities and vulnerabilities of a girl that age. We see her navigate the unstable terrain that is her father’s mind–a man who could bludgeon her three-year-old brother to death because he discovered the boy was an orogene, yet tenuously hangs on to Nassun to take her somewhere he’s heard she can be cured. Why? Love. Twisted, damaged and smashed love. Nassun valiantly attempts to keep the image of her father in her heart and mind despite what she knows about him. Why? Love. The other parent, Essun–the one who pushed her as a child, hurt her so she would know how to protect herself, the one who is not there–becomes an object of hate, though the child does not clearly acknowledge this as her fear and desperation turns her in that direction. Continue reading

Hild: seventh-century Britain comes alive through the eyes of a young girl

hildI finally finished Hild by Nicola Griffith, and I’m feeling sad about it, as one does at the end of a good book, even though historical fiction is not normally my thing. I was invited into a seventh-century Britain that I never knew I wanted to visit and was thoroughly immersed in a world of complex characters from many walks of life. Griffith’s characters are amazingly well drawn, as are the settings all over the British isle,

Leave aside the protagonist for a moment, readers will enjoy the slitty-eyed king who shows too many teeth in his smile; a slave who exerts substantial influence over the king’s war band by the sway of her hips, but who is a fully drawn character, not one dimensional; a priest who loses his status when his god goes out of favor; and another who thinks nothing of killing two sick infants in his eagerness to baptize them.

There’s one other character I just must compliment before discussing Hild herself, and that is her mother Breguswith. Early in the novel, she loses her bid to become royalty when her husband is killed, but somehow manages to wedge herself and her two daughters into the edges of the household of her cousin, another king on the rise. Breguswith plays the long game and manages to convince the king that her second daughter is a seer — “the light of the world” she calls her.  Being a seer is a dangerous line of business where kings’ bad moods or poor judgment could get you killed, but this tiger mom doesn’t balk and puts her youngest daughter on the line on more than one occasion. Continue reading

Notes on the new installment of “The Return on Investment” / Notas sobre la nueva entrega de “Rendimiento de la Inversión”

Women of Rajasthan, photo by Diya D'Sa

Women of Rajasthan, photo by Diya D’Sa

I have had part 2 of the “The Return on Investment” ready for a while, but I’ve been wrestling with the story and made some significant changes to an earlier draft. I tried hard, very hard, to stop this self-important uncle from narrating the story, but it just had to be that way. My problem is this: I have three or four short stories in mind that are about the overt and covert injustices that happen to girls and women. The stories are set in the past, present and future, and they take place in different cultures.  Being a strong proponent of enhancing the agency of female characters, I intended to take my time and see what these women and girls might do to escape their predicaments, but the female characters in “ROI” were not speaking to me. They just wouldn’t, and then I figured out that they couldn’t. This story is about them, but it is not their story. The story belongs to the narrator who triggered the action that impacts the female characters.

Have I done an injustice to the female characters in this story? I hope not, but I had to give this silly narrator the voice he demanded. You can tell me what you think when we get to the end. All I’m sure of is that I have to tell the story I understand. As much as we talk about female agency and voice, the female characters can’t always be heroic or protagonists even in stories that are about their lives. Sometimes they’re survivors, and sometimes they’re victims.

Go to the Free Stories page and take a look. There will be two more installments.


EspanolHe tenido la segunda parte de “Rendimiento de la Inversión” lista por un tiempo, pero he estado luchando con la historia e hice cambios significativos a un borrador anterior. Me esforcé mucho para impedir que este tío pretencioso narrara la historia, pero tenía que ser de esta manera. Mi problema es el siguiente: tengo tres o cuatro cuentos en mente que tratan sobre las injusticas explicitas e implícitas contra niñas y mujeres. Las historias están en el pasado, el presente y el futuro, y pasan en diferentes culturas. Siendo partidaria de realzar la agencia de personajes femeninos, tenía la intensión de tomarme el tiempo de ver lo que estas mujeres y niñas podrían hacer para escapar sus situaciones problemáticas, pero los personajes femeninos en “Rendimiento de la Inversión” no me estaban hablando. Simplemente no lo hacían, y luego entendí que no podían. Esta historia es sobre ellas, pero no es su historia. La historia le pertenece al narrador que desencadenó la acción que impacta sobre los personajes femeninos.

¿He cometido una injusticia contra los personajes femeninos en esta historia? Espero que no, pero tenía que darle la voz que este narrador tonto exigía. Me podrán decir lo que piensan cuando lleguemos al final. De lo único que estoy segura es que debo contar la historia que entiendo. Por mucho que hablemos de la agencia y voz de las mujeres, los personajes femeninos no pueden ser siempre heroicos o siquiera protagonistas en historias sobre sus vidas. A veces son sobrevivientes, y a veces son víctimas.

Ve a la página Historias Gratis y explora un poco. Van a haber dos partes más.