If you are a lover of short stories, you should immediately grab Lesley Nneka Arimah’s début novel “What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky.” In it, she depicts just enough of soooo much. Just enough about a family to clue you into their rich history and help you understand the fullness of their pleasures and disappointments. Just enough about a near distant future that it feels familiar but exhiliratingly different from the world you know today. Just enough about the people that find themselves together at a specific point in time that you come to know that moment in a vibrant and deeply intimate way. It’s like that feeling you get when you press a new kaleidoscope to your eye and start turning.
This book has quickly become one of my all-time favorite collections of stories. At times, it felt otherworldly and stretched my imagination. And then it pulled me into my feelings as a mother, sister, auntie, cousin, and daughter. At the end of each story, I felt so satisfied, yet I also felt like dreaming more about the stories. And dream I did. Thank you for the great book, Lesley!
From her book cover:
Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. She has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award and the Caine Prize, and a winner of the African Commonwealth Short Story Prize and an O. Henry Award, among other honors. Arimah lives in Minneapolis.
In an interview for Catapult.co last, Morgan Jerkins asked Lesley “Who are some of your biggest inspirations, and why?” I loved her answer:
I find myself drawn to and inspired by works that deal with the relationships between women. Take, for example, My Little Pony (the reboot, obviously), which follows a cast of females ponies who fight to save their universe. It’s a world where the heroes are women, the villains are women, and when you’re forced as an artist to write beyond the token woman doing “woman” things, you end up with characters that are multifaceted. You end up with Twilight Sparkle, the lead pony who is kind of annoying and smug. You end up with the butch queer and femme queer ponies, Rainbow Dash and Apple Blossom. You end up with Pinkie Pie, goddess, clown. The plurality of female characters means they end up being as dimensional as women are in real life. The same dynamic plays out in the comic book Bitch Planet, whose details I won’t give away to avoid spoilers (buy and read it immediately), but it’s a work that poses interesting questions that I find myself wanting to answer.
- Portrait of Lesley by Emily Baxter
- Featured Image (Illustration) from larimah.com