“The Ancestors” by Laurie Tom
Reviewed by Christos Antonaros
In the flash fiction story “The Ancestors” by Laurie Tom, a sixteen-year-old kid celebrates the Ching Ming with her family in a way different from the usual. Instead of burning money at a cemetery, they choose to craft paper ships and sail them into the Pacific Ocean. This is not the only difference, though, for the protagonist will discover that her family’s bloodline shares a unique bond with the ancestors. A fair reading, with pleasant images and references to the Chinese culture. On the other hand, the author ends the story too abruptly, and we don’t have any choice but to speculate on the rest of it.
Through an unusual point of view, which rarely is spotted in short stories, “Foreign Tongues” by John Wiswell describes an extra-terrestrial monstrosity exploring planet Earth. Even though it is presented as a creature that likes tasting, with a preference for ice cream, the terrified masses around it seem extremely hostile. All that it wants is to save as much ice cream as possible, for later. The differentiation of motives and principles between the creature and humans, who it names Homo Sapiens, are interesting and in many points creepily funny. The highlight of the story is the way the protagonist justifies the invasion.
Shailaja wants nothing else but to sing in the third story of this issue, “Songbird” by Shveta Thakrar, for she insists she is a bird trapped in a human body. No one in her family believes her, though, and so they force her to live a normal life by subduing her talent and desire, along with her magnificent voice. When she demonstrates her singing, however, everyone will be astonished by the beauty they were trying to bury. With a few words, the author manages to portray the subjugation of women by Asian societies and the stereotypes they hampered them with, since their earliest years. The metaphor of a bird trapped in a human body, seeking to escape its prison, is so effectively given that even though this is a short story it leaves you with the anticipated satisfaction.
In the last story, “The Knives of Her Life” by Jennifer Todhunter, the protagonist is a young girl with an exceptional talent with knives. With her knifes, she chops vegetables in restaurants, but her favorite routine is when she carves on the bottom of her bed the beaches, jungles, and cities she wants to visit. During her plan to escape her home and abusive mother, she will confront the latter more than once. In a few words, the author describes the importance of determination in life, as well as the goals and the confidence we need to have to achieve them. The reading also focuses on the multiple ways we can expand our talents, no matter how unimportant we think of them, and use them positively.
Christos Antonaros is a dark fiction author with a love for European mythology.