Nasty Woman Press has come out of the gate with an anthology worthy of their moniker. Shattering Glass is a collection of works celebrating female empowerment – this includes short stories, interviews, and non-fiction essays designed to both entertain and educate the reader. Proceeds from the anthology will be donated to Planned Parenthood.
There is a wealth of excellent material contained within and as with any anthology, each reader will discover their own favorites. To give just a taste of the variety included, I wanted to highlight a few of the works that particularly resonated with me. I hope that it will inspire you to pick up the collection and discover your own favorites.
“Welcome to the Sisterhood”
by Ellen Kirschman
In this story, which could just as well be a true-crime account, Edwina is a woman born into a life that wasn’t hers, doing everything she can to survive. But when even her best efforts are not enough to keep her safe, she sets out to get revenge – and in the process finds a new family. This is a story with so many layers that readers will find themselves returning to it over and over.
by James L’Etoile
Lydia Ramirez finds herself in jail while pregnant. Because of her husband’s snitching, the La Mesa gang members in her cell block make life a living hell for her. When an opportunity to transfer to special facility for pregnant prisoners is offered to her, she sees a glimmer of hope – but some things are too good to be true. James L’Etoile once again shows his vast knowledge of the American prison system, offering a difficult story to read, but one that is also hopeful about the possibility of reform – for the system as well as for the prisoners.
“A Conversation with Cara Black and Hallie Ephron”
Before these two accomplished authors begin to talk about the writing craft and the particular of being women writing about women in the crime fiction genre, they spend a brief moment talking about female artists that inspire them and who they consider to be “nasty women.” Black chooses Camille Claudel, while Ephron goes with Artemisia Gentileschi. Of course, the craft discussion that follows is wonderful and enlightening, but it is this opening section that makes this interview a must read.
“Thoughts and Prayers”
by Joe Clifford
Joe Clifford tells the story of Nadine. As the story opens she is on the way to the funeral for her son, who was senselessly slaughtered in a school shooting. With a father who is an NRA member and a mother dealing with dementia, Nadine’s mind runs off the tracks on this melancholy drive. Little does she know that when a chance encounter at the funeral allows her to speak her mind publicly, she also plants the seed for another mourner to go vigilante. This is a powerful story that ends at just the perfect moment to elicit much discussion and debate.
by Rachel Howzell Hall
Just give all the 2020 short story awards to Rachel Howzell Hall now; there is just no reason to even debate it. This story is simply that good. Every line of “Down, Girl” oozes with subversive rebellion; Hall uses cultural touchstones as monuments and long-standing stereotypes as ammunition. No one gets off scot free in this story centered around one crazy bitch, highlighting the many social flaws that exist, all while wrapping it in the most f*cked-up depiction of rapport and friendship the genre has seen in years. I literally started re-reading it the moment I finished it the first time.
by Jess Lourey
This is one of the non-fiction pieces in the collection and also proves to be one of the most powerful. Not a surprise for those that have heard Lourey’s recounting of her life journey via her excellent TEDx Talk. In an essay that could easily have been depressing, Jess Lourey finds a way to give everyone hope even when facing the darkest of paths. This is writing that is impossible to forget and that helps to heal – both the reader and the writer.
“The Elephant in the Room”
by Wendy Corsi Staub
This is a short story with a Latina heroine, Sofia Belinda, who refuses to allow society to force denial of her heritage. Too many people expect her to speak English and to be ashamed of her “meager” belongings and it gets to be exhausting. Sometimes enough is enough. Staub brings Sofia to life and endears her to the reader, leaving them cheering by the end of the story.
by Kelli Stanley
This story about a man’s encounter with his female seatmate during a brief flight is pure wish fulfillment. Kelli Stanley places enough clues to let readers know that the differences between what the man thinks is happening and what is actually happening is a wide gulf indeed. Especially important is the validation that “small incidents” are often a sign of much bigger problems. Prepare to cheer by the end.
“Raven and the Cave Girl”
by Dana Cameron
Dana Cameron returns with another in her series of “AKA Jayne” stories. Here Jayne finds herself needing to trust a nemesis in order to discover the truth. Fans of the TV show ALIAS will find much to love in this story that takes the tropes of those testosterone-heavy action novels and dares to place a female in the lead. This is one of the longer stories in the collection, but many readers will wish that it could have gone on forever. Pure escapist fun that states its message by simply being true to itself and pushing back against unfair restrictions.
by Toni L. P. Kelner
Toni L. P. Kelner graces this collection with a gem of a story. As the black sheep of her family, Natasha, has always had to rally against the horrible nickname bestowed upon her by her sister. Being constantly called Nasty would give anyone a complex, but Tasha finds a way to overcome it. When a family tragedy brings her face-to-face with her sister again, Natasha realizes that it might be time to embrace the trauma of familial abandonment (not to mention that mean-spirited nickname) and fight back. Kelner knows how to pace a story and “Nasty” builds nicely to a final moment that is unforgettable.
by Catriona McPherson
In this episodic story, Catriona McPherson manipulates the legend of the mythological harpy in the most creative of ways. This story features a harpist who visits nursing homes for a very specific reason. Like the sounds of a harp itself, McPherson’s writing here calms the reader, soothes the soul, and allows for gentle contemplation of life’s many challenges.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.