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Post-drought reading

I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction and poetry lately. Since my depression hit me very hard upon migration, my reading dropped off dramatically; I used to be the sort of person who could (and often did!) finish several novels a day, but then I stopped reading almost completely, making exceptions only for fanfic written by friends. As life stabilized, though, I slowly began to get back into it. And since I’ve started dipping my toes into the (terrifying! wildly churning!) waters of the SFF field, I have been reading so much. So much. It’s like rain after a long drought. I read during my morning commute, my lunch break, my afternoon commute. While I’m cooking, stealing five-minute snatches as I wait for things to brown and caramelize. With tea, with wine, with water. After waking, before bed.

I have a little list of recs — stories and poems available to read for free online — here for you. They’re not serious reviews per se (I’m limiting myself to 2-3 sentences each) but things I’ve liked and want to share. I read widely, based on whim, so there are some old pieces here, some new ones. If you are so inclined, do give them a little read, and enjoy!

Fiction

  1. Anna Saves Them All by Seth Dickinson. Beautiful, painful, brilliant; clear and sharp, a glass blade. My chest hurt after reading this — a kind of story I will never be able to write but that I needed so badly to read, a story that left me breathless with its unflinching truth. Augh.
  2. A City on Its Tentacles by Rose Lemberg. What a gorgeous terrible city, framing Luba — a mother drawn with both delicacy and intensity — and the necessity of choice, the silent persistence of love through it all, and again: necessity, endurance. I read it as though in a dream, and loved every moment of it.
  3. Santos de Sampaguitas by Alyssa Wong: part 1, part 2. Reading this was like coming home, and although from the very start I could see how events could possibly unfold (in the patterns of folktales and love stories and tales of family in inangbayan) that did nothing to blunt their impact. I adored Tin, the unquestioned presence of the supernatural in history and life, and the familiar sights and smells, fruit and fire and dust and sun.

Poetry

  1. Nagapadam by Shweta Narayan. I talked a little about Stone Telling in my first post; Shweta Narayan’s poetry, the way she used language and forked tongue like blades, brushes, threaded needles, was vital to my choice to submit, to trust the zine with words and stories of Pilipinas and know they would not be sanitized or watered down by unwieldy explanation. This poem still takes my breath away. It pierces, burns, bleeds.
  2. A User Guide to the Application of Gem-Flowers by Bogi Takács. I love poetry that opens up new worlds to the reader, and this one does that perfectly in so few words. I had these vivid strange images in my head while reading it, as if I were given the barest taste of stories upon stories full of magic and possibility, and when it ends I couldn’t help but think, but oh, I want more. Bogi has such a gift for telling stories in poems and I always enjoy reading eir poems.
  3. Mawson by Bella Li. So sometimes I will read a poem that crushes me, it is so undeniably beautiful, and brilliant and perfect as cut diamond, and so very heavy in all its layers and meanings — stories and lifetimes within so few words; and it is so well-done it’s out of my reach. This is one of those. I had the poem open in a tab for weeks and weeks, and each time I read it I would find more and more and more, would see it was ever more out of my capacity, and so reading it was always glorious joy with the faintest tinge of pain, breaking bones.

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