Uveitis

I got uveitis for Christmas. My optometrist described it as a charley horse in your eye. But it’s worse than that. Your eye burns red. Your vision is blurred day in and day out. There is radiant pain throughout your sinus and eye socket. Light hurts you. Sunlight is terrible, but indoor lights are worse. And, in my case, my eye became so inflamed that my lens got stuck, and my pupil disfigured.

My blindness was a near thing. My optometrist dilated my eye three times, and kept it dilated for 16 consecutive days. I wore sunglasses and hats indoors. I took steroids in my eye that left a taste in the back of my throat. I couldn’t tell when I was crying and when my eye was just trying to cleanse itself.

I couldn’t work.

Couldn’t see.

My doctor gave me her personal cell number, and arranged to meet me over the holidays while her clinic was closed to make sure I was progressing. The second visit showed that the deterioration had been arrested. The third visit, she finished the entire exam of my eyes before she moved all her equipment out of the way, and told me that the inflammation was gone. “It might come back, but right now, your eye looks normal.”

Her relief was more palpable than mine. She hadn’t been sure. She hadn’t been sure that my disfigured pupil could be corrected. “You have some iris on your lens now. There’s a stripe of blue.”

I walked out of her office into a snowstorm. Wearing sunglasses. Sobbing.

In the months since, I see floating spots, and my eyes get red and ache when I’m stressed. Black squiggles dance on my periphery when my eyes get too much light, or not enough light. I wear glasses now. The disease aged my eyes.

I was so frightened. Uveitis made rectal reconstruction surgery seem pedestrian. Made labor seem like a party.

I spent all of December in so much pain that I snarled and snapped and slept exclusively on my left side because my right side was broken. Blurred and sore. My own eye hurt me. The light. Sleeping. Sleeping hurt me. I’d wake and be unable to manage my way through the dark. Or wake and be afraid to open my eyes. The pain shining through me.

And then a weird thing happens. You get calm with pain. You climb inside it and sit quietly. You inhabit pain like your childhood home: the place familiar and smaller than you remember.

You test it like a muscle. You stretch your pain. You feel it expand and contract. You fill it with breath. You hold it.

You hold your pain like a child.

Even separate from it, you’re not free.

I won’t tell you it was a gift because it was fucking horrific. I hate uveitis. I still won’t sleep on my right side. Sometimes when I wake in the dark, I’m afraid. I wait to open my eyes.

Then I open them, and the pain becomes a story I tell you from some months ago. Before I knew I could survive it.

I have learned to be tender with it. My injuries at least as noble as my strengths.

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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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