I didn't believe Teacher because once, before my mother died, she told me that heaven and hell were as dark as shadows. Sometimes heaven and hell perch on your head like a butterfly, she said, sometimes they disappear. Even though you are unaware that death is upon you, they appear to us in turn, as close as your breath. Apple and Knife, by Intan Paramaditha
Our third book choice at The Introverted Book Club was the collection of short stories by Indonesian author, Intan Paramaditha. I'm a big lover of a short story, and was drawn to this translated collection by it's intriguing cover art, and assertion of blending horror, myth and feminism within.
I will start by saying that overall I really enjoyed the collection, but some of the stories were a bit hit and miss. We agreed across our book club selves that some really hit home for us (and spooked us a little!) but others felt rushed, incomplete, and their inclusion may have been to pad the book out a little (just our own thought). It also really reminded me of another collection I read earlier this year - Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado - which is definitely worth seeking out.
Paramaditha has done an excellent job of creating a narration that draws you in, and it's filled with references that are distinctly her home, her country and her culture. She eloquently weaves in ideas of feminism and the supernatural to explore what it means to occupy a female body in today's world. The women of these stories take on many roles, including vengeful lover, against the male characters and each other.
While this book has been somewhat slotted into the horror genre, I feel that does a little bit of disservice to the stories themselves. While themes and topics of horror are certainly a part of this, the stories are so much more. There's such a unique blend of culture, personal views, feminism .. and something else .. that elevates these past simple ghost tales.
Nothing is taboo in Paramaditha's world, the women of which are only too happy to get their hands dirty and bloody to carve out their rightful place within it. I would definitely be keen to read more from this author.
N|B While I didn't find the themes too intense, others may find some of stories disturbing, triggering or upsetting.
The Introverted Book Club is a monthly bookish meet up, to discuss one book of choice over coffee. Our preferred themes are around emotional health, psychology, and writers from non-western backgrounds.