We interrupt this program with late-breaking panic

At the end of a pregnancy, the comments about your body become more urgent. And something in my head fractured my brain from my body as though I could distance myself from the scrutiny. I felt like livestock. My postpartum was a grim thing. And I didn’t recover until I realigned my brain with my body. I came to think of it as re-selfing. I had to come back to my body. To learn to love it. I’m tempted to say again—to learn to love it again—but I’m not sure that’s true. I have, repeatedly, treated my body like a slave trader. It was most apparent after my son was born, and my marriage was ending. Being a wife felt like being strangled.

I am currently in full-fledged panic. I’m not worried about the wedding. I’m not afraid to be married. Now I understand that marriage is what you make it. I’m worried that I’ll be a lousy wife. I’m worried that I’ll fail. I’m worried I’ll disappoint her.

I wrote that blog yesterday because so often women are treated as though we’re naturally good, as though we don’t struggle with our impulses, as though we never have to rein ourselves. We work hard to rein ourselves. Rising above our impulses is an evolutionary feat.

In the hospital, the nurse who finally helped me sort out breastfeeding said, “Let me just get in there,” and grabbed my breast, and my kid’s head, and latched us together. I’d been terrified that my body would fail him, that he’d starve. I should give my body more credit. And my heart. And my love. In the meantime, I’ll let my panic wander around and tell her story. She’ll be quiet when she’s done.

The Panic of Birds
– Olena Kalytiak Davis

The moon is sick
Of pulling at the river, and the river
Fed up with swallowing the rain,
So, in my lukewarm coffee, in the bathroom
Mirror, there’s a restlessness
As black as a raven
Landing heavily on the quiet lines of this house.

Again, the sun takes cover
And the morning is dead
Tired of itself, already, it’s pelting and windy
As I lean into the pane
That proves this world is a cold smooth place.

Wind against window—let the words fight it out—
As I try to remember: What is it
That’s so late in coming? What was it
I understood so well last night, so well it kissed me,
Sweetly, on the forehead?

Wind against window and my late flowering brain,
Heavy, gone to seed. Pacing
From room to room and in each window
A different version of framed woman
Unable to rest, set against the sky
Full of beating wings and abandoned
Directions. Her five chambered heart
Filling with the panic of birds, asking: What?
What if not this?

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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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