Another offering from my Queer Lit class. Sorrowland and Our Wives Under the Sea are my two favorite books from that class.
Something that was started in my African American Literature class my first semester of grad school was this analyzing of cover art. A friend of mine who was in that African American Literature class with me had a different cover of the book and we debated which one was better.
I am personally a fan of the second one. However, it was pointed out to me the first represents the book in a little different way. Much like Our Wives Under the Sea, the book is about transformation and the subversion of gender. It is also commentary on how the government has used black bodies, without consent, for medical experimentation.
The story revolves around Vern. She escapes the commune of a religious all-black cult closed off to rest of the world. A child bride and pregnant, She gives birth alone in the woods. She raises her twins, for the first several years of their life, in the woods away from civilization while hiding from the person sent to hunt her.
As Vern starts getting sick she realizes she has to leave the solitude and safety of the woods in order to get help. She not only finds help, or as much help as she can get for what ails her, but she finds love and a found family.
It is sometimes interesting reading reviews of a book once you have read it. Often I feel like I shouldn’t do this because I wonder if I have read the same book as the person reviewing it. This time around I am surprised as I don’t recall in class discussing Vern being intersex or Gogo being transgender. I think it says more about my classmates, that we just accepted the characters are they were, rather than making a major point as many reviewers have. If anyone knows anything about Rivers Solomon going into their books, they know the author is non-binary and intersex and should expect such things in their books.
This is the first book I have read by Solomon and I really enjoyed it. There is that same body horror element of Our Wives Under the Sea, where the main character is morphing into something else. In the case of Vern, she end up covered in an exoskeleton of fungus. For her it is one trauma on top of another, and the transformation is just icing on the cake. Sometimes it seems a little much but overall it is a remarkable story.