Elegies for Uncanny Girls

Elegies for Uncanny Girls

Elegies for Uncanny Girls

Elegies for Uncanny Girls


Unsettling and perceptive, these short stories challenge American girlhood in all its delusions, conflicting messages, and treacherous terrain. Wide- and wise-eyed, mysterious girls leave their realities behind for strange and slightly unreal places at the edges of the country. Alternatively they hover over their Midwestern homes in interior worlds of their own creation. The stories in Elegies for Uncanny Girls stand at a boundary where both the girls' bodies and their tales are either their own or laid claim to by the culture and characters that surround them. A young woman whose body continually shrinks and expands moves to Los Angeles to make a movie about tragic merpeople; bewildered and seeking guidance, a new mom strikes up a conversation with a woman with detachable hands; and spurred on by a new ally who might just be a figment of her imagination, a girl decides she can choose her own friends.


I bump into the woman as I’m trying to maneuver my stroller out of the way of a man in a suit.

“Sorry,” I say, turning around.

She laughs and lifts up her hands, and I catch sight of fine red seams at her wrist creases, seams that glisten and yawn as her hands tip backward, open to the bone so her hands topple like two people falling in unison over two peaks and finally hang, floppy but suspended behind the upheld stumps.

I’m stuck staring at the flesh inside the stumps. It’s quivering, like the bunched-up petals of a peony, shaking on a wet bush. the bone is a piece of polished ivory set among jewels.

Wow, I think, is she truly avant-garde?

There are others who are like her at this café. Janet the barista, an artist who sometimes attaches labia made of bubblegum to her bare arms and face, à la the feminist artist Hannah Wilke; Jessie the cashier, whose earlobes have been stretched so far that for work the manager makes him tuck them over the tops of his ears as if they’re locks of hair. There are the street kids outside. All blond dreadlocks and metal faces, and the often amputated bodies of the homeless, shifting and shuffling, toting their sleeping bags around like cocoons.

This woman fits in. Though, I’ll admit I’m not sleeping well. It seems logical that my dreams, interrupted at night, have begun making daylight appearances.

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