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Women on Fire: Stories

Women on Fire: Stories

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Women on Fire: Stories

Länge:
86 Seiten
1 Stunde
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Oct 15, 2015
ISBN:
9789966052155
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Women on Fire is a collection of short stories, all but one of which focus on the lives, struggles, and loves of Filipino lesbians. Thoughtful and beautifully written, they are stories of women in transit, searching for something they want to have or think they have lost and, in the process, finding a surprise that sets them on fire: the love of other women. Will she choose the unknown over the safe confines of a heterosexual marriage? Will she keep fighting to be chosen? Will she finally understand? Women on Fire is the debut fiction collection of Jhoanna Lynn Cruz.
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Oct 15, 2015
ISBN:
9789966052155
Format:
Buch

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Women on Fire - Jhonna Lynn Cruz

Foreword

In The Psychology of Love, Sigmund Freud discusses the affectionate current, which attaches mother to son or brother to sister and is exclusive of desire (or becomes so), and the sensual current, which attracts subjects to objects through desire. Both currents run through Women on Fire, Jhoanna Lynn Cruz’s remarkable collection of stories. The affectionate current is reflected in the author’s clear attachment to country, culture, and people. The descriptions of land, vegetation, food, family, crafts, and causes are suffused with love and insight. But just underneath this desire-less, unconditional, affectionate current is the hot electric wire of sex. Often, the two collide, narrative sparks ignite, and drama is born.

Sometimes, Cruz undercuts the dramatic moments: The next day, I wondered why I did not feel changed. This is the line that opens This Girl Has Turned into a Woman and Other Rites of Passage. In it, a twenty-four-year-old, sexually experienced lesbian decides the time is right for her first heterosexual intercourse. It is a clinical decision, made independent of a partner—independent even of desire. It is an idea, a biographical rite of passage to record and then from which to move on. Where this story is concerned, there is more heat in the past. And in Women on Fire, events or decisions trigger openings into the past—not a pat, psychoanalytical past where thwarted impulse leads to present neurosis but a complicated, wondrous, particular past where savoury chico and bubbles blown from [a solution of] Tide detergent lead to R-rated encounters in a prepubescent Eden. In 1900, Freud’s idea that children are sexual beings was met with scepticism and outrage. In Cruz’s story, childhood sex gets barely a shrug from the characters. Ditto the heterosexual sex.

Oh, but the lesbian sex … can be graphic and exciting as in Comadrona, in which a young woman from Manila finds herself drawn to a married woman in Vigan. The narrator is in search of the missing pieces of her family history and finds instead a family in the flesh, living in a home whose materiality suggests the heritage of the nation. Tantalising descriptions of crafts and cuisine ensue. Brokenness, the narrator learns, is what makes things beautiful. Questions of freedom versus confinement, satisfaction versus repression are crystallised in the story’s (and the book’s) steamiest scene, which takes place in a vividly rendered birthing room. Time and again, Cruz’s eye zeroes in on the most symbolically charged detail, but the touch is always light, never intrusive.

Unless intrusion is the intention. Lost and Found is a metafictionist discourse on the results of choices, pitting the freedom of the single life with its emphasis on sexual fulfilment and uncertain trajectories against the confines of married life with its emphasis on comfort and continuity. (Think Joni Mitchell’s Song for Sharon without the music.) In this story, the point of view leaps from third person to second person to first person and the legendary Filipino writer and mentor, Edilberto K. Tiempo, appears in an effort to conventionalise a narrative that will not respect traditions.

Sex is more on the minds of characters than, say, in the hands … or other body parts. We see the desire for sex or romance or the aftermath of sex or romance much more than we see the act. In that respect, Cruz’s work resembles the early stories of Mary Gaitskill. Through the characters’ disappointments, we are kept in mind of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXXIX and the old folk wisdom, Post coitum omne animal triste est. Married women return to their spouses and young women act young. And those who desire, those who are oppressed by the figures of beauty, as Leonard Cohen puts it, are left to ponder the folly—and the stakes—of pursuit: a bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe.

Women on Fire is a rich collection that can put the reader in mind of Freud and Shakespeare and Gaitskill and Mitchell and Cohen. But Cruz does not stop there. Echoes of Robert Stone occur in "How Manong Victor Brought Home His Baket. And Liway, a story about the abandoned pair of mother and daughter of a Clark Air Base GI, suggests both Puccini and an upending of American country musician Ernest Tubb’s Filipino Baby. Cruz is concerned with the impact of power imbalances on romantic pursuits. Landing" involves an older woman with an immature lover. The questions it raises about external influences on the sensual current are crystallised in its subplot: the protagonist’s recollection of the time a wealthy Filipino immigrant visited her province in search of a bride.

Ultimately, I judge a book’s value by how much it makes me want to write. In my reading of Women on Fire—and in my re-reading and re- re-reading—I put the book down continually, inspired to write stories of my own that connect with the spirit of Cruz’s work. Readers will be informed and delighted by this collection; writers will be moved to emulate. The narrator of Cielo says, Having an affair is undoubtedly one of the most exciting things in this world. So is reading a good book. Settle in, buckle up your flotation device, and let the currents take you away.

Tim Tomlinson

Co-founder, New York Writers Workshop

Looking Back

Women alone stir my imagination. Virginia Woolf

When my book of stories and a play, Women Loving, came out in 2010, it felt like an artefact of a past I had once lived and had by then relinquished. After all, by the time the book of women-loving-women was published, I had married a man and had two beautiful children by him. But I must admit that I had not been able to write a single story in that marriage. Even after he and I had separated, the stories did not gush out unencumbered. I have since realised that, like Virginia Woolf, I needed to be stirred by a woman—at best, an actual beloved; at worst, a mere memory of her; or somewhere in between, a longing for what can yet be.

The stories in this collection constitute a life lived in pursuit of a place to belong, whether in the context of a relationship or within the self

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