story by Laura Walker

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Laura Walker’s marvelous story reminds us: gender is a narrative, and “to be narrated,” she writes, is both “to be invited and contained.” Indeed this dreamy book about Southern girlhood invites the reader into a rich, detailed diegesis whose lyric landscape contains all the gender constraints a girl learns from the world. And like the fairy tales Walker draws upon, story shows how these constraints pretend to be simple despite great complexity. Their apparent simplicity arises from emphasizing “habit and trauma,” narrative’s continuity and its disruption by violence that reinforces gender norms. But story reveals that their complexity stems from the way that gender, like narrative, actually “has no beginning but a place where it breaks, a frayed end and a blank space and another frayed end.” Sentences like this make me love this wise and beautiful book of brothers and soldiers, swans and floods, old family stories and betrayal, the kind of knowledge that turns a girl into a robber.

—Brian Teare