Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fiction February Part IV: Water by Alyce Miller

I took a class at IU recently from Ms. Miller, and was surprised when it was over that after all we had talked about and critiqued and discussed, I had never thought to read something she had written. In honor of Fiction February and her fabulous writing class, I picked up her recent award winning collection of short stories called Water.

I don't often read short story collections. I like them and as a fiction writer it is the type of writing that engages me the most. I don't read them because it is too easy to put the book down after one story and move onto something else. The short narratives end and my attention moves somewhere else.

I did leave this and come back to it several times, but finished all nine stories and found every one of them to be interesting and unique. Each story was published previously in other literary reviews. I read them in random order choosing for length depending on what I had time for. Ms. Miller has a spellbinding narrative style. The longer stories were especially captivating and pushed me to read and keep reading, each page turned itself as I was drawn into many different types of life, most rooted firmly in the landscape of the midwest. Several deal squarely with race from the point of view of African American children and young adults which I found really thought provoking.

The strongest stories were the long narratives like My Summer of Love, Friends: An Elegy, and and Hawaii. All of them tore me apart in different ways. They were full of tenderness and confusion about coming of age and straddling disparate worlds. Each story and situation uniquely rendered. If you are looking for short lovely fiction for the coffee shop or the bus ride home, this might be the collection for you. And if you are in the market for a good fiction workshop, I highly recommend her as a teacher as well.

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