Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias- A big ass review.

There is gonna be a LOT to unpack.

TL:dr- This is a great fucking book. If you like supernatural, crime and can handle some Spanish get it. Yes amazon link srry.

LONG VERSION. Some spoilers may happen.

I was given a copy of this book a bit after it came out by a dear friend who had read it and decided I HAD to read it.

Zero Saints starts with the kind of wry, first person humor during what builds to be an ass kicking that I like. The first four pages let us know that we’re in for a wild ass ride. The violence isn’t of the sort that is immediate and all the way in your face, Gabino’s style in this book is intimate, we are in Fernando’s skin (at least I am and we’ll get to that) so in the beginning of this book we know a few things. We know Fernando (not his name yet) is in trouble, big fucking trouble.

When I saw the line about Fernando praying to la Santa Muerta, y’alls….my lil woo self got all fucking excited. Following the mention came the first of much Spanish and I have enough Spanish to have gotten the gist of what was going on and this brings me to my first pointed remark. I have seen some reviews (too goddamn many) that make a point to complain about the amount of Spanish. Like…okay I don’t want to quote Junot Diaz but, the quote about folks willing to read Elvish or whatever and who will bitch about Spanish.

There is a lot of Spanish. Personally, I can read more Spanish than I can speak and I am not at all fluent. That said, when I felt like it really mattered, I looked shit up because like most of us I carry a computer in my pocket and the internet exists.

Anyway.

The action picks up very fast and things get real bloody. While the action is revving up, I really love that there is a low key grace in Gabino’s writing. It is brutal, it does go from 10 to 100 and there is beauty there. We know from jump that Fernando is no super badass, his fear is written in a very real way that gives us a glimpse of a well written and rich character.

Details like how Fernando stops being able to really think with everything happening, really grabbed me. This book is a really great example of why I love first person POV so much. Using this POV in this book gives us skin to skin contact, we get to be intimate with the story and with Fernando and that my friends, is my shit.

I don’t want to spoil stuff plotwise so let’s talk about skill and craft.

First let’s talk why I love how Fernando is written and thus love being so close to his skin. Fernando is written as a kind of mysterious type, we get glimpses of a life he’s lived before. he had problems. He has nightmares, he needs oxies to sleep on the regular but in particular during what’s going on in the book. We get this bloody meaty human which in noir circles can be sparse.

Gabino does a few sly little shifts to second person and I am here for it. What makes these so effective is that, the shift slows the eye. We are dragged into the reality of this situation almost gently and then there’s blood and teeth on the floor. Gabino does an excellent job of balancing Fernando’s horrific situation with glimpses into his tender heart.

He has a crush on a girl, this bit when we meet Yolanda is exquisite:

“How do you tell a woman you like that you’re a fucking coward?”

In the context of the things Fernando has experienced, the glimpses of his past we know he is not a coward and this line, just got me. I love a cis het dude with some self awareness and written with tenderness. Yes, this is a violent as fuck book that has a heart. Like most of the noir I love, our main character is someone I want to slap and hug and then put the fuck to bed.

It takes a firm grasp on one’s masculinity and a deft hand to write cis het men with heart. It just does. Especially in noir, especially when there is also violence. Too often, I think a lot of cis male characters wind up being all balls and no heart and that is boring. If you write cis het dudes, read this book.

Now, let’s talk about the super natural aspects of this book.

His use of diasporic spiritual practices is superb. When we meet Consuelo, that is where things get really deep to me. Again, I don’t want to be too spoilery but I do want to mention that, in researching to do this review, I noticed a lot of folks didn’t comment on the loveliness of the spirtuality and how the supernatural is handled in this book. That bugs me.

The introduction of Ogun changes the tone of the situation in this book. When I first read it, I said Oh Shit out loud. The violence and drug dealing by themselves didn’t quite give me the gravity of bringing in Ogun as part of the action. I think other readers, especially those unfamiliar with Afro/Latinx diasporic religions probably missed out on that. I am pretty sure that my familiarity, bred my excitement in this case.

In chapter 5 and the end of chapter 4, the depth of love Fernando is shown really touched me. Again I don’t wanna be spoilery but, the ritual and the egg, that’s fuckin love y’all. The novenas given to Fernando, the way in the book the prayers are set out in full touched my heart. These moments of love and hope are what balance the brutality of much of the book. I think in a lot of other reviews I read, I was missing the appreciation of as I said above, tenderness.

Ahem.

Before I go much further, let’s kind of ease to the end here because I wanna be super spoilery and I hate that.

The introduction of the Russian was another great touch to me and a perfect example of cross cultural understanding. This is transgressive because there is no push/pull in how Nando and the Russian communicate and come together. That is fucking real.

The thing I love best about this book is that without the tenderness, moments of gentle handling and sadness it would STILL be a good book.

Gabino Iglesias is a bad mother fucker.

WITH the tenderness, love, and tears this is a great book. Like most books I love, this little gorgeous thing is meaty. It is bloody not just in the violent sense but in the sense of it having a pulse, this work has a heart that as you are pulled into Nando’s fucked up life, you feel it in your hands.

And okay y’all, I don’t say this often but this book ended perfectly. Just, y’all it fucked me up in the best way. And like books I love, I want more.

What is greater is that I’m more familiar with Gabino’s work and hustle and I am here for it. This book is on my list of recommendations for actually transgressive work that lives outside of the Great White Western Ideals and does so in shining, haunting, bloody fashion.

Go read it. Read Gabino’s tweeter.

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When I am Too Much

Recently, I had an essay published in one of my bucketlist magazines. See it here at The Offing. I have a story to tell y’all about publishing and what happens when you are in fact too much.

That essay came about because I was contacted by an editor I am familiar with and they asked if I could do a piece about race and gender. The first version of this essay was more dry. It lacked flavor to me and I felt like I was trying to engage too many things when this story was very enclosed to me. The original version had lukewarm feedback and the editor wanted more.

I did this version and to me this is it. I’ve been experimenting with trying to place more literary styled essays in not lit mags specifically. A successful example of that is here at Wear Your Voice.

Editor #1 had reservations. Some of their feedback:

  • I lead with fear of death as a Black Man
  • I refer to my masculine gender expression with a personified phrase “the boy”.

However, the most tap danced around feedback came down to the fact that this work doesn’t engage with gender in the way that they wanted. They wanted Sassy Black Queen and got Terrified Black Femme. The suggested edits stripped specific mention of Blackness to turn it into a #metoo piece without the connective tissue.

A story that is not mine.

I decided not to go further with that editor because the story they wanted was a pastel version of my story with a rainbow on it and not a memory and meditation on a real fear in my life.

I shopped the piece as it appears at The Offing around for a while. Most responses were lukewarm and boiled down to, yes this but not like this.

Much of the feedback was tentative and trying very hard not to say, this is way too Black while saying, this is way too Black. One editor said that they didn’t think it was broad enough. For a memoir based issue of a magazine. I read broad as relatable to White folks and I noped out. The feedback was never about the quality of the piece. Every editor said the work was solid, it was always related to my expression of Gender, Blackness and fear.

The problem here is this. If you are not a marginalized person and you are seeking work from marginalized people, insisting on “broader relatability” backfires. You won’t get authentic work. You won’t get the best work. If you can’t engage with things that aren’t strictly uplift, either mention it up front or don’t seek the work.

This is the same problem I talked about in this entry,  When in the Wear Your Voice piece I talk about being denied humanity, this is what I am talking about. I am talking about the idea that work from marginalized people must be palatable to whiteness is to deny us our humanity. When folks insist that, my story about gender expression and sexual harassment end on a more chipper note, that is a denial of what actually happened.

To demand this shiny version of someone, the happy ending, the creator is turned into a 2d version of themselves and that is erasure and it feels shitty. You can’t ask for the realness of talking about identity, and then say, no not like that. It just don’t work.

Back to the piece at the Offing. Chanda specifically told me they loved it and it made me cry. I’d put it on Etsy for a minute because y’all know that’s how I do. If I can’t sell a piece to a magazine I’ll do that. Or put it on Medium etc. Or tuck it away for later. Here’s the thing.

My experience with gender expression isn’t theirs and yet, they still enjoyed the work. I’ve heard from readers who are White cis folks who felt something and enjoyed the work. Some folks who read the piece thinking it would just be a nice read because they are not Black Femmes and found some part of themselves in the work.

And it is, what it is.

A note for editors.

If you want to feature or highlight marginalized folks, take what they give you. Don’t try and plasticize it or tone it down or make it nice for non marginalized folks to read. Be uncomfortable. Be willing to let your readership be uncomfortable because, isn’t that what art is.

That’s it for now.

 

Hustleverse and Art and Shit.

OOOKAY y’alls.

I’m on my hustle and we got THINGS HAPPENIN.

Let’s start with some evil empire (amazon) links.

An older book of mine I put together as part of my beginning idea of showing how the sausage is made is Wayward WordsI transcribed things out my notebooks, some flash pieces and poems. I talked a bit about them. It’s a little thing you can read on your Kindle app and enjoy for a little bit.

Next up, I was in Thuglit Issue #5 and that was a fave story I’ve done. I’ve really enjoyed running around in crime fiction and the whole issue is pretty solid.

Want something a little racier? I was in an issue of Infernal Ink with some pyro crime erotica. Get U SOME!

Full disclosure about my amazon links. I get a few cents on clicks and buys. They discontinued their store program so I will be making a page of book recs with said links. Yes I know terrible however, bitches gotta eat.

Now some more direct stuff.

These links will give me more cash in hand.

I’ve reopened my Etsy Store. I’ve included a brand new Etsy exclusive essay. I’ve reopened Etsy to get ready to list some handmade shawls and I’m pretty excited.

I’m also still fundraising. We’ve got almost 1400$ all in for lingering move related bills and staying alive. I hate it but, we gotta stay alive.

If you’re a paid Medium member. I put a new thing behind the paywall. Claps are free y’all know. Also, if you’re paid and like what I’m doing, throw some claps on other pieces.

I’ve also got some free stuff happening.

Read about why, yes the fuck I will unfriend over politics. And appropriate to this post, a little thing about Making a Difference.

Something that I believe in is, helping folks on a small scale. We can’t all be the viral helpers and sometimes, the best route is to just help folks stay alive.

Can’t buy? Totally okay. Share links. Tell your friends that you have a homie in need who has a variety of ways to provide support.

Show up.

If you don’t want to do that stuff, I got tip jars too.

https://www.paypal.me/WordsnThings

https://cash.me/$weebeasty

https://venmo.com/Shannon-Barber-5

Later this week, I’ll be posting up some new free to read stuff about writing. Follow me at Medium for that. Want a loveletter to your creative heart? Subscribe here and get a tiny vacation weekly from the trashfire world.

#BeyondSpecialIssue A few Thoughts

First go read everything here. 

This is gonna be messy.

First thing, I have been a guest editor for a special issue. In 2016 one of my most beloved humans Milcah Halili and I were chosen to guest edit for the Citron Review. Milcah and I blind read and chose a piece by Ariel Gore who is a powerhouse of a writer. At the time, I was elated. I hadn’t ever (or since) done that sort of thing and found that I loved the process of selecting a piece to feature from my gut.

It was hard.

I admit, I had some discomfort. I realized that in reading back issues that okay yes Queers but where were they before?

This is where I find myself now.

Further thing.

I submitted to the Trans/GNC issue of Poetry Magazine. I got  nice rejection.

The thing I feel most conflicted about is this mess of feelings.

Given that in most of my literary career I have been she, because I rarely press pronouns issues for myself, I am relieved I was rejected.

At the same time, I feel like a lot of my recent work reflects my own fluidity in the context of gender. I purposefully tend to mix my pronouns and associate phrases in that way because it is how I feel.

Some of the other feelings I have is a general kind of aversion to special issues. Too often, I feel like the special issue contributes to the idea of there being a scarcity of good work by X population. I don’t see a lot of literary journals asking the better questions. I feel like this is basic shit I’ve been talking about for years.

Ask WHY don’t the people I want to feature submit regularly? Is my back catalog full of whiteness? Cisness? Hetness? A lot of venerated poetry outlets, fuck up a lot. They publish transphobic, and other shitty shit and tend to double down and then maybe say, we support free speech blablabla and then have the audacity to wonder, why aren’t these X population folks submitting?

That’s why.

Y’all.

Maybe it is because I’m old and bitter but I feel like I just am not fuckin with these people anymore.

It has been a thousand fucking years and we are STILL having to say, look do some basic work and maybe you won’t have to do a special issue.

That said, I also do enjoy special issues. I enjoy it when magazines are deliberate in featuring voices and folks who are overlooked. BUT, BUT, too many places rely on their special issues and don’t do the follow up work.

It is work.

This morning I didn’t feel like I should comment because y’all know I like to stay in my fuckin lane.

And then I remembered I’m a poet who ids as genderfluid Femme and like…this has an impact on me.

Lately when folks talk to me about po biz fuckery, I STILL have the hardest time realizing hey, that is also my biz. And honestly?

Fuck po biz.

But also come on be better.

And also, am I out of my lane?

I’m the most obscure poet and I will likely not be anybody’s po biz darling so does it matter how I feel about it?

I mean, yes I have a book out but I also generally speaking don’t get published.

That’s a whole other thing.

This is my community. And I feel like an Fine Ass Old Auntie and like a baby potato holding a poem at a mic in a shitty cafe whispering my Saphhic unrequited love poetry.

I want to get to know more of my community and I feel like things like #BeyondSpecialIssue and the conversation help. So please go check out the hashtag on tweeter. Read the link above.

I’ll probably talk more about this once I decide to stop telling myself to not.

 

 

Updates, Books and readings.

First up let’s talk about the books I’ve been reading. Yes Evil Empire affiliate links ahead.

BOOKS Y’ALLS!

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi. AHEM. Y’all. I will do a full dorktastic review after a reread but um. OKAY> AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHSHIT SON. If I’m gonna be fancy, this is the Diasporic Dream of Baby Potato me. If I’d had this book at a crucial point in my youth, I probably wouldn’t have given up all magical type literature for more than a decade. A complaint I’ve seen around is that it isn’t a complex plot etc and I think that is misguided. This is a book intended for teen readers so, adult epic fantasy lovers probably won’t like it. That said, I love this book. The magical systems, the world building, the evolution of the characters AND I HAPPEN TO KNOW THE NEXT ONE IS ON DECK. A really wonderful read, if you’re Black and know smol Black humans who like magic, get on this.

Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias. I’m on my reread of this book so I can do a review and y’all. I think someone gave me a copy of this book and said, read this you’ll like it. I do like it. Gabino has a gift for coming out swinging and the pace is not fast but it feels relentless. It is dark and violent and there is grace in his characters. If you like it dark and violent and pretty, read it. Bigger review soonish. ALSO check out his work in a fave magazine of mine, Shotgun Honey.

Other book news I’m hype about. Y’all know I love me some Joe Clifford and I happen to know that his book Junkie Love has a fancy new print coming up in Sept with a whole new forward by another of my beloved writers Jerry Stahl WHO also blurbed Gabino’s book. I’m really hype for that.

What’s good lit world?

I’ve been reading some great stuff. I’ve made a habit of checking tweeter in the morning and y’alls I know so many fucking great writers.

Go read this by Kristin Chang in the Offing. It is so beautiful and just…I made a velociraptor noise while reading because WOW.

My friend Chiwan Choi wrote this and holy fuck it is beautiful. If you meet him, go to one of his events or just see him on the street you should buy him some cookies immediately.

Podcaster and all round bad ass homie Nia Levy King is running a fundraiser and please check it out. Donate, share it. These books are so important. This is vital work.

Y’all know that one of the few places I feel good about freelancing at is Wear Your Voice Magazine. My last piece there is one of the best I’ve written and they need help. Indie media is so important so again, check out their Patreon and if you can’t support, please for real y’all share the links.

Let me take a break here to say again.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t contribute financially. SHARE THE GODDAMN LINKS. It is free. It takes two seconds and if you knoiw 2k more people, or different people than I know, that is more eyes, more eyes means more opportunities for support so get on it.

What have I been doing?

WELL I have been a busy wee beast. I poeted at an event last night and it was really nice. I read at an event called Margin Shift and Y’ALLS! A thing happened for the first time. TWO PEOPLE there had seen me read previously. And said so. Also I talked to other writers/people about my work and stuff and didn’t pee myself or faint.

I sold some books, folks enjoyed the reading a lot. Overall it was on the way better end of reading in Seattle. I’ll write more about that later.

I had this wee witch poem published over at Yes, Poetry.

I’ve been using Medium as a bit of a clearing house of sorts for stuff I have in drafts, stuff living on my phone. Funnily enough. Now that I’m not doing any paid content, both engagement and readership has gone up. In March/April when I wasn’t really posting I had about 400 reads. Posting a few times a month, my reads are in the thousands.

So it holds up my point that a LOT OF PEOPLE including those who already pay for Medium don’t give a fuck about tossing me a few coins.

Sooo new stuff over there. Including a lil screed on how yes the fuck I will unfriend people over politics and I ain’t ashamed.

OH also earlier in the week I posted up a little essayish thing and free bite of the Daiyuverse. Go visit Bayou Cane, meet the St. Pierre family and get you some free shit to read today.

Last thing, as a way to encourage myself to do more digital arts, I opened a red bubble shop with a few prints. More are coming.

OH ONE MORE THING. Come sign up for my loveletter. It was a newsletter but mostly I talk about being a creative person, struggles, fun shit, tell you how much I love you. No spams. All ham. Loveletter link was busted and is all fixed up.

Dassit for now.

 

Yeah Write #373- On Post Coital Sagacity.

 

On Post Coital Sagacity.

by

Shannon Barber

My roommate watched me kiss her goodbye. I grinned at him.

“What’s wrong sugar pie?”

I was fuck drunk and slightly slurry.

“How the fuck?”

He gestured at me, then the door, then my crotch. I let him smell her on my breath.

“Pussy sapience. Nighty-night, booboo.”

“Night, asshole.”

###

Hustlin updates and stuffs.

So I know it has seemed bleak but, here’s the thing. When I figure out how to work, I fuckin work.

The method I’ve adopted for now is write like a mother fucker, accept some freelance, submit to literary shits, get rejected rinse repeat.

My other hustle is my Patreon. Let’s talk about that a little bit. I don’t make much at Patreon, a couple of hundred bucks that pays for some bills. It is one of my favorite things. Some of y’all are new so let’s talk bout what I’m doing there. I’m writing an ongoing urban fantasy very queer Black n brown ongoing story. I’m calling each novella length chunk a Cycle and my goal is to just write in this world (a magical Seattle and currently a few other spots) and play.

When I talk about the Daiyuverse this is what I’m talking about. It is where I go to play. I am creating a large magical system, I am connecting POC cultural and diasporic spiritual magics. This is not vaguely European fairyland. It is absolutely Queer and not a White centered world and I just love it. Part of what makes it fun for me is that the curtain is pulled all the way back. We’re into cycle 2 and I’ve left in my own editorial remarks, mistakes, do overs.

This is a naked first draft. This is (to paraphrase Jerry Stahl again) me naked and fucked up at 4 in the morning writing and it is wonderful. I don’t ask for a lot, I don’t do tiered anything. Regardless of how much you are in for, you get usually a little letter and about 3k words of the verse. Sometimes I toss in extras, WIPs, essays or whatever. Once life is settled I’m thinking about doing some Patron only videos about writing or stuff.

It is great.

Now let’s talk freelance. I’ve just made my re-entry into freelance and I am so proud of the piece. You can read it here at Wear Your Voice. CW for racism and some hard shit. One of the reasons freelancing can be the shits for me is that, writing easy stuff is not really my lane. My fluff gets deep regardless of subject matter. I want to write about fuckin eyeliner, I talk about Western Beauty standard bullshit.

As emotionally taxing as my non fiction can be for me to do, it is just who I am as a writer and human. It me. I fought it but, it is just who I am. The same day the above piece went live, I wrote this lil thingy on Medium because some folks were bothering me. I spat it out and kept it pushing which is how I work.

I toss little jokes in with my seriousness because I’m a goofy mother fucker.

One of the things that all the marketing advice for writers in the world won’t give you is that sweetness of connecting with your audience. I know who y’all are and I fucking love the shit out of you. Yes, I do talk about how/when/why my audience doesn’t give a shit but, I know a lot of you do and that’s deeply meaningful to me.

WHen stuff like this column by a fave magical being I know named Misha went live, I read it and got teary eyed at the bus stop because when people tell me that something I said touched them, the fucked up hustling isn’t so fucked up. I’m still poor and not in the best of health but fuck y’all, I do feel the love.

While there has been a pattern of fuckery in my literary world, there is a bigger pattern of when my words do what I want them to and work themselves into another persons heart, that makes it better. When (this happened a while back) a shy young Queer person on the bus, whispers did you write at XOJane about self care to me and when I say yes they light up and say thank you, that is the realest shit. When I get dms saying, yo that poem was fucking fire.

I think a lot of my life has lead me to this point. I’ve made the decision not to play the recommended game. Fuck that game. I’m not going to compromise, I’m not going to shut up, I’m not going to filter myself so I can make money.

I will still freak out about money because I’m poor. I will sometimes write lengthy shit about how much I just want to sell some fuckin stickers or whatever. That said, I can hold that and hold space for doing what the fuck I want to do and writing what the fuck I want to write, because that is who I am.

It me y’all.

My dreams may not be lucrative and won’t buy me new make up but, I believe they will fulfill my soul and that my friends is what I want.

That’s all for now. I love y’all.

OH yeah new loveletter later today about trusting your process and taking a leap. Come sign up. No spams. All love for your hams.