Reading List #9 — The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

Hello again, dear Readers. Once again I am back with another installment of What is Liz Reading This Week? starring, well, me. After putting down the heavy weight of Go Tell it on the Mountain, Aimee Bender’s short story collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt was a breath of air – but not necessarily fresh air. The more modern style was indeed a faster read (I started and finished this collection on the same day I finished Baldwin’s book), but it was certainly no less heavy.

I’m not sure what all I want to say about this book. It is a collection of short stories with a twinge of magical realism laced throughout – one story is about a woman who gives birth to her own (dead) mother. The title story, which appears at the end of the collection, starts out like this:

 “When I came home from school for lunch my father was wearing a backpack made of stone.

Take that off, I told him, that’s far too heavy for you.

So he gave it to me.”

It’s this fantasy-like aura that I loved so much about the book. It has a feeling of symbolism. Sometimes I think stories can be a bit too symbolic or heavy-handed with metaphor, but Bender’s stories never felt that way to me.

I’m not sure how to talk about these pieces, but I know that I loved them. This is a book I will revisit when I have the time. I’ve been trying to write more things like this lately (I recently started a collection of my own inspired by stories from my childhood), and Bender’s work helped me see that it’s possible. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who likes to read – or, for that matter, anyone who has eyeballs.

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