Unplug and be free

My site got hacked, and Mary’s phone broke, and you start to suspect that maybe you should play outside more. So I gathered kindling, stacked firewood. Thought about my heart. In graduate school, I went through a brief and poorly advised period of makeup wearing. Eyeliner. Mascara. Even lipstick sometimes. I worried about my hair. I fussed with it. The good news: I’m allergic to makeup. Around 10 p.m. every night my eyes would start watering, and they wouldn’t stop until I’d washed all the crap off my face.

During this same period of time, I went out to a sketchy bar with my fiction class, and my professor introduced me to the second out lesbian I had ever met. “You should know her,” he said. She told me later that the cross around my neck was the first thing she’d noticed. I needed every protective charm I could think of. I needed makeup and crosses and a guilt complex and gratuitous affairs. I needed alcohol. I needed shields to keep myself from sleeping with girls. I needed to be a girl. Like, a real one, with a hair style and particular shoes to go with particular outfits. I was so afraid. I was afraid to be noticed. I was afraid to be seen. And so I wore the disguise I thought everyone wore. Don’t look! I’m just like you!

In 2003, I joined a lesbian book club, and after several months, a woman in her fifties said, “This is the only place where I feel safe.” It was heartbreaking. It was a terrible thing to contemplate.

Where are you safe?

You can strangle your own heart. You can shout so loudly that you overwhelm your best instincts. Your truest instincts. You can convince yourself that you aren’t miserly, that the poor are the ones who are greedy. That they want, for nothing. That they want for nothing. Isn’t it enough that you work hard? How can you do more than you already do?

How tight is the grip on your heart? When was the last time you held onto somebody and really let yourself feel loved? When was the last time you held onto somebody else to keep them from falling off the planet? Noise and distraction and shields and under it all, I remember my heart. This stubborn heart that just doesn’t learn. It defies me all the time. It ranges wherever it wants and comes back whenever it chooses. It loves in defiance of good sense. It loves the girl I tried to cloak in makeup and crosses. It loves the men who hate me. It goes on loving as though it has no choice.

Where are you safe? You aren’t safe, friend. You aren’t. You are here to risk. You are here to live. You are here to feel things and be burned and be happy and be miserable. You are here to fuck shit up. And be beautiful. And be ugly. You are here to hurt people. And apologize. And change. You are here. Right fucking here. To love as though you have no choice.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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