If you’re looking for a challenging and insightful read this summer, the following four collections of poetry and short stories, all written by inspiring and innovative women, run the gamut of emotions and experiences and so are sure to fit the bill.
Back to the Light is a collection of poems that together describe the life and development, both emotional and spiritual, of one woman. From a childhood characterized by uncertainty, fear, and repression through to the dawn of adulthood and reconnection with both her body and the truth of her past, she grows into her dual role as a wife and a mother, before rejecting such constricting norms and seeking wisdom from great women: writers, singers, teachers, even Mother Earth. She eventually succeeds in attaining a level of self-belief and self-knowledge that helps her to perceive her place within the throng of humanity, which finally allows her to heal from old wounds. In exploring the course of the narrator’s life, George Ella Lyon crafts poems that are by turns tragic and humorous, inspirational and oppressive, puzzling and enlightening. This collection beautifully highlights the healing power of poetry and the strength that each individual carries within themselves.
Through the eleven short stories contained in These Bodies, Morgan Christie examines the complexities inherent within relationships, focusing particularly on the experiences of people of color. Each story centers on a unique character, and whether that character is a struggling father determined to better himself, a child who wants to be recognized for living as their authentic self, or any other permutation of humanity, Christie succeeds masterfully in making both them and their story seem real and relatable. She strives to highlight the stories of people whose tales generally go untold, and in doing so, she champions the relationships of flawed individuals fighting to reconcile their failings with their hopes. The stories often feature several layers of meaning, causing readers to question if everything is really as it seems and to ponder what the future might have in store for the eclectic cast of characters.
Gabbie Hanna’s Dandelion is an unusual collection of short poems, vignettes, illustrations, and snippets seemingly transmitted directly from the author’s unconscious mind onto the pages of the book. Plumbing the depths of Hanna’s psyche, the included works explore the experience of declining mental health in a world in which such matters are all too frequently overlooked, underplayed, and/or stigmatized. Veering between the absurd and the tragic, the poems trigger a roller-coaster of emotions and prompt questions as to what mental health entails and how it should be addressed, both as a concept and as an illness. As a whole, the collection serves almost as a journal chronicling Hanna’s thoughts and experiences of times of emotional turmoil and bouts of stability. The book also includes an impactful selection of personal essays by Hanna, in which she tackles issues stemming from her childhood and prior relationships.
Vulnerable AF records Tarriona “Tank” Ball’s recollections of the experience of mistaking infatuation for love. Perhaps inspired by the host of romance novels she read to while away the time when working in a nursing home, as a young woman Ball believed herself to be in love with a person she barely knew, and unfortunately, it was the “can’t-eat-can’t-think-can’t-sleep type of love.” To reconcile this non-epic relationship in her mind, Ball has set down her thoughts and feelings in the form of brutally honest poems and short stories that detail the highs and lows of infatuation. Her words flow beautifully, and despite their often weighty subject matter, they are brimming with humor, hope, and strength. Ball lays bare the pain associated with unrequited love and missed opportunities, and she highlights how it is possible to overcome an infatuation in a way that leaves you all the stronger for the experience.