|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"The Star Maiden" by Roshani Chokshi (4724 words)
Well this month's stories seem to enjoy making me tear up a bit. I think I've mentioned this before, but I have a special place in my heart for awesome-grandma stories, and this one definitely qualifies, about a girl named Tala growing up to the stories of her Lola, her grandmother, who was a Star Maiden, a celestial creature who came down to Earth and was seduced by Tala's grandfather and by music and she stayed, telling stories, passing them to Tala like food, like milk. But as Tala grows she finds those stories grating, becomes too much a teen concerned with rebelling, with finding her own way. Lola grows old, frail, and the old story of the two of them lifting into the stars together seems for her to be real and drawing closer. It is a tragic story at that point, magical and poignant about keeping the stories of the past close, not turning away from a cultural heritage. And so it seems like Tala and Lola's last connection is one of anger, rejection, disappointment, and guilt. I loved the slow way the story came together, the way that Tala cycled through the stages of life, the magic of childhood giving way to the anger and confusion of growing up, finally flowering into adulthood, into understanding the beauty of the old stories again and, in this case, rediscovering the magic that once was certainty. And in that moment of finding a cultural past still intact, believing in it again, reconnecting with the grandmother thought lost and gone forever. It is an emotional story, striking and rising, powerful and lingering. The relationship between Tala and her grandmother is one that speaks across cultures and generations, and made me at least remember old hands, great stories, and a deep laugh.
"The Last Dinosaur" by Lavie Tidhar (1566 words)
Hey, another grandmother story. I guess there is a theme to this month's offerings. In this much shorter tale, Mina is a woman taking her grandmother's car out for one last ride. The setting is one where cars are no longer used, where fossil fuels are no longer consumed. And Mina lives this final experience in the car her grandmother would always take her out driving in, those trips what grounded Mina through all her troubled times, a bit of her childhood that stuck long after the troubles faded away into obscurity. It's something that she shared with her grandmother alone, that the world has committed firmly to the past, but Mina doesn't care, wants only this last connection, this last memory. It's a nostalgic story, but also a story of honoring memory and family. Mina's trip is like a spell, conjuring up one last time the physical feeling of driving, of giving her grandmother one last triumph. Mina could have left the car in the garage, left it there like a time capsule, not allowing it to run out of petrol. Instead she takes it, gives it that last taste of glory before running down, acknowledging that a time has passed, that something has ended but not letting it be a time of mourning. Like many things, it had its time and for that one instance, for the breadth of this last ride, Mina brings back the magic of it, the memory of it. It's a short story but one steeped in memory and care and defiant fun. Indeed!