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Milk Blood Heat

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Set among the cities and suburbs of Florida, each story in Milk Blood Heat delves into the ordinary worlds of young girls, women, and men who find themselves confronted by extraordinary moments of violent personal reckoning. These intimate portraits of people and relationships scour and soothe and blast a light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, consumption, and what we may, or may not, owe one another.

A thirteen-year-old meditates on her sadness and the difference between herself and her white best friend when an unexpected tragedy occurs; a woman recovering from a miscarriage finds herself unable to let go of her daughter—whose body parts she sees throughout her daily life; a teenager resists her family’s church and is accused of courting the devil; servers at a supper club cater to the insatiable cravings of their wealthy clientele; and two estranged siblings take a road-trip with their father’s ashes and are forced to face the troubling reality of how he continues to shape them.

Wise and subversive, spiritual and seductive, Milk Blood Heat forms an ouroboros of stories that bewitch with their truth.

208 pages, Hardcover

First published February 2, 2021

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About the author

Dantiel W. Moniz

2 books323 followers
DANTIEL W. MONIZ is the recipient of a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Award, a Pushcart Prize, a MacDowell Fellowship, and the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction. Her debut collection, Milk Blood Heat, is an Indie Next Pick and her work has appeared in the Paris Review, Harper's Bazaar, American Short Fiction, Tin House, and elsewhere. Moniz is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches fiction.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,282 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 116 books156k followers
April 20, 2021
I loved these stories and the many interesting people at the center of them. Moniz writes with incredible sharpness and precision, and there is an ache in so many of these stories. They all end without much resolution but it works. There is a real confidence in a writer saying, this is as much of the story as you need to know. This is as much of the story as I want to tell. Looking forward to seeing what she does next.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
781 reviews5,390 followers
February 11, 2023
Love requires a bareness, a certain pliability, and I didn’t thrill at the possibility of being transformed or wiped away.

A family is a fragile thing, so entwined together yet caught in a tightrope act where one slip can wrench the all lives askew. In her utterly stunning debut collection of short stories, Milk Blood Heat, Dantiel W. Moniz performs her own feat of walking a riveting course of language through topics often difficult and dark while keeping the reader in luminous, rapt attention and emotion. Family dynamics thread through most of these stories, and the ways motherhood and self-searching can affect not only yourself but those around you. A woman miscarries a baby and imagines pieces of infants everywhere, mothers try to reconnect with their daughters or attempt to force their children to reconnect with one another, cousins grow distant and death shakes up all. These are the lives of everyday people in the Florida heat going through everyday tragedies, yet Moniz dissects the heart of each matter and renders their internal struggles so tangible and empathetic. It is also a wonderful look at Black realities written without the white gaze or without racial trauma being the sole purpose, which is something that should be encouraged in the publishing industry. These are stories that cut yet comfort in their disquiet, that look deep into the ties that bind us with others, all done as a beautiful and caring tribute to Black lives trying to get by.

Moniz is a fresh talent with a world of promise. For a debut these stories each feel quite fine tuned and so polished you’ll feel them glow within you. Though tonally there are a few outliers, the collection as a whole shares a common theme of family and examines how it can alter based on what we let into it and what is inevitably expelled because of it. Pregnancy, affairs, grudges, illness and death all find their way to shake up the personal lives of these characters and Moniz positions you inside their struggles in a way that makes you empathetically experience their uncertainties, agonies and even face their mistakes.

These characters all arrive at a moment in flux, trying to hold on to what is stable or normal as life sends a tremor of change, or as a narrator remarks, ‘the kind of quiet that gathers lightning’. Motherhood becomes a defining metric here, with pregnancy or relationship defining being centered around a mothers role in the story. In Necessary Bodies, Billie the narrator wonder ‘if motherhood was always that was--waiting for rest to find you, for parts of yourself to come back together’ after her mother remarks that she can finally sleep with both her daughters together in one place. Billie has recently discovered she is pregnant and unsure if that change from her easy marriage is wanted, or if she is even fit for the role. It isn’t until she can step outside her close relationships and speak openly about it to a distant former acquaintance that she can examine what her feelings truly are. Which speaks to the power of literature, and how it is through stories such as these where we can examine life outside ourselves in order to make sense of the lives we are living.

But motherhood is not always easy, and relationships are often strained. The Heart of Our Enemies follows a mother trying to understand her daughter after her own affair has shattered the family and her daughter’s opinion of her. The story, which ends in a delicious revenge plot on a lecherous high school teacher, finds the daughter realizing ‘it’s her mother’s first time on this earth, too.’ We are all new humans bumping along trying to understand how best to live, making mistakes, hurting ourselves and others; even those who we think are the ones in control are experiencing this as well. Perhaps life is an endless lowgrade imposter syndrome vibe, I've never trusted people who act overly confident anyways.

This collection really thrives on the moments when character’s discover what is beyond their control and how they react to it. ‘This was all it all felt,’ Billie wonders as she sees decisions being made for her, ‘like someone else had made a wish and sunk a penny into the deep of her.The Loss of Heaven, one of my favorites, follows an aging man dealing with his wife’s refusal to get chemo when her cancer returns. A proud man stuck in an unproductive image of masculinity, he is unable to confront his own emotions and let them show even when ‘the reality of her smacked into the room.’ His normally flawless demeanor begins to crack, with a montage of arguments with his wife bookended by two different trips to his favorite bar. The first being a cool customer as a perceived favorite by the attractive young bartender (he tips heavily--’all our communal loneliness appreciating into currency’ a similar bartender muses in a later story) and the latter when the drink and his overconfidence get the best of him resulting in a few toxic and embarrassing moments. The title story also deals with the fallout of a situation beyond an adolescent narrator’s control--a shocking and violent moment where the person she felt was the only one who truly understood her is lost forever. Or the mother who hallucinates the unfinished body parts of her miscarried child begins to outwardly react to her step-daughter.

These are uncomfortable yet relatable moments where the characters must assess who they are, what they value, and how to regain stability in an unstable world. When a teenage girl is outcast from her church and thought to be corrupted by the Devil in Tongues, she learns to embrace her alienation and, with help from her brother, remembers that life and youthful troubles are fleeting. This gives her strength to seek the best revenge of living a good life where she can look back on the pastor who called her sinful for having pride and laugh at his toxic upkeep of patriarchy (the story makes comparisons to The Scarlet Letter being taught in her lit class which is forgiven for being a bit on-the-nose because it is executed so well).
She was of that special age where she knew both nothing and everything, and no matter where or at whom she looked, she saw her own reflection glimmering back like a skim of oil. She could be anyone, still.

It is noteworthy that this is a book about Black lives where the white gaze does not seem purpose for the telling of each story. Far too often the whiteness of the publishing industry only deems a Black voice worth publishing if it has something to teach white people. While the lessons on anti-racism or confronting the everyday racism Black lives experience is a valuable and necessary voice, it is nice to see a Black voice with Black character’s given the space to live out everyday struggles where racism isn’t the focus, or where whiteness isn’t somewhere in proximity to the message. Not that this collection avoids racism, it comes up quite frequently in ways that effectively demonstrate how common microaggressions or racism is in every day life such as the white ticket seller at a museum who thanks the white couple but not the two Black friends, or when the white girlfriend in Thicker than Water (which is easily the best in the collection) drops hints to make sure the narrator knows ‘she is an ally.’ Aside from the first and final stories which address race relations head-on at times, the character’s here are given the space for their own personal issues to be heard and valued beyond ones of race trauma, though still a creeping reminder that racism permeates all of everyday life. Publishers, take note.

Dantiel W. Moniz has given an extraordinary collection that really kickstarts 2021 books on a high note. This is a razor sharp collection where the highs are pure bliss and even the lesser stories are worthwhile achievements. The shortest, ‘Exotics’ may be a bit undercooked and less original than it intends, but it still delivers a powerful social punch. It is not easy reading however, and dips deep into darkness at times with many triggers along the way so be warned that issues of rape and violence are commonplace in the pages. It is well worth the journey though. These stories of family dynamics and troubles tugs at the heartstrings and makes us ponder along when a character wonders ‘how much love it takes to hate this much.


We wrap a sheet around our shoulders and climb into the kitchen cabinet, where we pretend we are unborn, and we have always been together.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,921 reviews35.4k followers
February 3, 2021
I was glowing from the inside out—about how real the characters were in these stories....
I was also deeply sad ( but impressed), by how well the author articulated the conditions of
stress and life.

Our lives are in these stories.

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,426 reviews8,333 followers
April 3, 2021
A visceral short story collection that focuses on the interior lives and interpersonal relationships of Black girls and women. My favorite stories in this collection, “Tongues” and “The Hearts of Our Enemies,” combined raw writing with developed character arcs. “Tongues” explores an older sister’s experience of misogyny in her church and broader community and how she tries to avenge herself while maintaining her relationship with her younger brother. “The Hearts of Our Enemies” captured a poignant, caring yet sometimes acerbic mother daughter dynamic and the extent to which a mother will go to protect her child even when their relationship feels strained. The intensity of the prose in these two stories felt well-matched with the ways the characters grew and asserted themselves in the face of male exploitation and misogyny.

The other stories in this collection gave powerful first impressions yet did not impress me as much. The remaining stories definitely made strong statements – about childhood sexual abuse and sibling relationships, about the angst and allyship of teenage girls angry at the world, about the drought of emotions that accompany a disappointing marriage, and more. I didn’t feel the same depth in the characters in most of these stories though, which may have more to do with the inherent shortness of short stories themselves more than Dantiel Motiz’s sometimes impressionistic writing style. Regardless, would recommend to those interested in a pretty dark, sometimes gruesome, yet still affecting short story collection.
August 27, 2021
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3 ½ stars

“She was of that special age where she knew both nothing and everything, and no matter where or at whom she looked, she saw her own reflecting glimmering back like a skim of oil. She could be anyone, still.”

Milk Blood Heat is a promising debut, one that I'm sure will be well-received by readers who enjoy lyrical proses. While I personally found Moniz's style to be occasionally a bit too flowery and/or impressionistic (“she's Frankenstein's monster. She is vampire queen. She is newly thirteen, hollowed out and filled back up with venom and dust-cloud dreams” / “my mouth a black cave, ugly and squared” / “I want to swallow my mouth—to fold in my lips and chew until they burst” / “my body felt made of stars”), I was nevertheless absorbed by her rather mesmerising storytelling.
Like most collections of short stories, some aren't as memorable or well-executed as others, but even in the stories that I didn't find particularly affecting there were moments or scenes that stood out (in a good way).

Most of these stories seem to possess an ambiguous quality, offering little resolution or at times clarity on the characters' feelings and/or futures. With the exception of two stories, most seem to be centred on either a young girl or woman whose lives are about to change or are in the process of changing. In the first one, 'Milk Blood Heat', follows a young girl, Ava, who spends her days playing with her white best friend, Kiera and begins to question their differences: This year she's become obsessed with dualities, at looking at one thing in two ways. Although Ava's mother disapproves of Kiera and her wild ways, the two girls are inseparable, or they are until tragedy strikes.
The second story, 'Feast', a woman is the deep thralls of depressions after having a miscarriage. She begins to resent her partner, as he seems not as affected by their loss. Moniz renders the uneasiness and sadness that have become backdrop to the woman's every thought and action, revealing how deeply her miscarriage has altered her state of being. Her grief, the disturbing visions she has, her numbness are hauntingly conveyed through Moniz's sharp yet poetic language (which in this instance worked perfectly with the kind of story she was telling).
Most of the other stories explore similar themes (grief, identity, motherhood, friendship) without ever seeming repetitive. Two stories seem centred on a girl's passage from youth to adulthood, one that forces them reconsider their worldview and notions of good and bad (especially in terms of their sexuality), and each one gives us a different take on 'growing up'.
My favourite stories were probably 'The Heart of Our Enemies' (which focuses on a fraught mother-daughter relationship) and 'Snow (in which a young woman is having second thoughts about her marriage). The two I liked the least were 'The Loss of Heaven' and 'Exotics' (which was short and employed a first-person plural perspective, 'we', that came across as an exercise for a creative writing class).
Even if Moniz's prose was a bit too sticky and snappy at times (a la 'girls are daggers/my eyes are full of stars'), I still was able to appreciate the majority of her stories and I look forward to what she will write next.

Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads
Profile Image for Hannah.
588 reviews1,045 followers
October 24, 2020
This is such a good debut collection of short stories. I especially liked the focus on girlhood and thought Moniz captures that particular time of life incredibly well – with all the inherent darkness a focus on girls can lead to. And dark these stories are – but I did not find them hopeless even if Moniz refuses to give her stories neat endings. I found this impeccably written, the metaphor heavy language a perfect fit for the format, and her characterization incredibly well-done. Some stories veered too much into darkness for me (I did not love “Tongues” and thought “Exotics” wasn’t half as clever as it should have been), but others were near pitch perfect (the collection starts incredibly strong with “Milk Blood Heat” which broke my heart but in a good way; “Thicker Than Water” with its examination of sibling relationships, guilt and grief was my favourite).

Content warning: rape, child sexual abuse, miscarriage, abortion, cannibalism, suicide, suicidal ideation, grief induced hallucinations

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for David.
236 reviews488 followers
August 5, 2021
There were some interesting things going on in this collection. Each of the stories is set in Florida and foregrounds female characters, but the stories are otherwise unrelated. Dantiel Moniz is definitely a writer to watch.
Profile Image for Lupita Reads.
103 reviews170 followers
January 31, 2021
“Ava knows she really is a monster, or at least she feels like one: unnatural and unfamiliar in her body. Before thirteen, she hadn’t realized empty was a thing you could carry. But who put it there? Sometimes she wonders if she will ever be rid of it, and other times she never wants to give it back. It is a thing she owns.”

I have kept quiet about this book. I read it in September of last year and it hit me so hard I clung to it hoping I could keep it a secret. That sounds strange. But there are things about these stories and characters I felt deeply connected to. The light and dark of them. The centering of the grief or trauma each character carries explored and vibrating throughout each story; not like a burden but more so like a thing of curiosity to pick up twist around and look at in the sunlight. Since September I've reread a few stories here and there thinking about how I'll write about this collection. With its pub day approaching I still selfishly wish I had more "alone" time with these stories. Free of whatever else I'll read about them from other readers or book critics.

Here's what I can say about the collection. There's something about the subtle but arresting descriptive lines like "I had two hands held out, waiting to receive my due.", followed by a thing that is heavy, in this case/story a character lamenting the requests and urgencies of a family and friends to become a mother only to miscarry. It's moments like this sprinkled through this collection that makes it near impossible not to see yourself as a witness in a room to these stories and characters. I guess in posting this, it means I'm ready to let the collection go? Nah, I don't think so. I don't think I'll let it go for a while but I am coming around to being excited for everyone to read it and I'll be hosting a giveaway to get me there this Friday.

Thank you @groveatlantic for sending me an advance copy of this collection!
Profile Image for marta the book slayer.
382 reviews810 followers
November 24, 2021

The more I reflect on the short stories I read, the more I realize the lasting impact they had. For example, I was posed with a question as to whether a person's actions determine who they are to someone. In one of the short stories a woman goes on a road trip with her brother to spread the ashes of their father. The sibling's strained relationship along with the presence of her brother's girlfriend, brings to past actions that weren't addressed prior.

The dark twist in each story elevated the complexity. Ultimately upon finishing each story, I was left with a feeling that some dark thoughts are universal. These stories were brutally honest; although I was sometimes repulsed by the thoughts, I realize it was necessary to a realistic story.

I wasn't sure what to expect before reading this, so I'll keep my review short and brief - give this a chance because this book leaves an impact.

part of race against time challenge (aka read all 2021 releases before the year ends.)
Profile Image for Czytająca  Mewa.
616 reviews95 followers
February 11, 2023
Lubię opowiadania i sięgam po nie chętnie, ale minęło naprawdę dużo czasu, odkąd jakiś zbiór (który nie był grozą) zachwycił mnie w takim stopniu!
Profile Image for Ms. Woc Reader.
470 reviews650 followers
February 17, 2021
Short story collections can be so hit and miss. I find short stories to be harder to get into because they don't always lay down a good foundation to get invested. Sometimes by the time you get invested in the story it's over. For me Milk Blood Heat had some good stories that resonated and some stories that just didn't catch my attention. There were some where the descriptions could be quite gruesome. One story that stood out to me "Feast" details a married woman's struggle after a miscarriage while her husband wants her to get over it. This one had the right amount of descriptions and raw emotion. Over all this collection is an easy listen on audiobook though I recommend not listening to it back to back and instead taking time to really let some of the stories sink in.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
480 reviews586 followers
October 17, 2021
"Love requires a bareness, a certain pliability, and I didn’t thrill at the possibility of being transformed or wiped away."

This a smart and assured debut collection from Danielle Montiz. The stories are mostly set in Northern Florida, and contain strong female voices, often disillusioned with life or distracted by temptations of a more exciting existence.

The shocking title tale sets the tone for the rest of the book. It's narrated by a woman looking back at a childhood friendship with another girl, who was preoccupied with death, containing one scene in particular which shook me profoundly. Snow tells of a bartender who is beginning to regret her recent marriage to a kind but dull man, and the job that invites her to indulge in a wilder side. Thicker Than Water is about two siblings who reluctantly agree to a road trip in order to scatter their father's ashes, and the complicated relationships they had with him and each other.

There are uncomfortable elements to every story. On the surface, it might seem like things are going well for these characters, but they often have dark secrets or repressed desires that they can't admit to. It makes for difficult reading at times, but I admire the bravery and honesty in capturing their dilemmas. Milk Blood Heat is a most impressive debut from Montiz - I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for her next effort.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,474 reviews2,308 followers
July 19, 2021
A strong debut collection of eleven short stories, set in Florida and mostly centering on female characters in different stages of life. While the protagonists and vignettes depicted are immersive, Moniz does not employ a traditional structure - the majority of texts just ends, thus framing the texts as snapshots of female lives that (appear as if they) do not follow a script, but are transformative. The singular occurences dive deep into the human psyche and its complexities, and while the subject matters are often dark, it still remains fun to jump into these rabbit holes.

I hope we'll be able to read a novel by Moniz soon.
Profile Image for Mari.
701 reviews4,651 followers
September 11, 2021

I received a copy of this audiobook through libro.fm's ALC program.

This was a stunning and incredibly well-crafted collection. Moniz's short stories are brought seamlessly together by themes of place and family, though each story feels impressively full and able to stand on its own. This is a collection that made my heart hurt, repeatedly, for the ways we see our characters show us through their struggles and make their way to realizations, wondering about the meaning or boundaries of their circumstances.

This is a collection that has each of the short stories just sort of peter out. These endings fit so well for me because of the way they highlighted the overall aching feeling of the collection and the sort of undone feeling of the characters we follow.
Profile Image for Jessica.
324 reviews362 followers
February 21, 2021
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz is an interesting shot story collection covering difficult situations. Family, friends, loss, grief, infertility, pregnancy, and race are all discussed. The stories flow seamlessly from one to the next. I was very invested in all of these stories and couldn’t put the book down. Moniz writes with so much emotion that really drew me to the characters. It was difficult to read what these characters were going through, but their stories are important and impactful.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Machelle Williams and her narration really added to the story.

I recommend Milk Blood Heat for fans of impactful short story collections.

Thank you Libro.fm, NetGalley, High Bridge Audio, and Grove Atlantic.

Full Review Coming Soon: https://justreadingjess.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Darryl Suite.
481 reviews352 followers
March 30, 2021
Despite a couple stories near the end that didn't feel as strong or focused, I found this to be an outstanding collection. Most of the stories grab your full attention right from the start. Sometimes it feels like the state of Florida is the protagonist, and all the characters are merely the supporting cast. That's partly what makes this feel like such a cohesive and successful collection, for the most part. The first story really hit hard and although I don't think any other story quite lives up to the momentum of that particular story, they sure do come close. I need more.
Profile Image for T Madden.
Author 7 books606 followers
September 12, 2020
"I could vanish follow the wet summery air down an unfamiliar highway, and try to escape the little legs dancing on my kitchen counter or lungs the size of kidney beans wheezing from the nightstand. I imagine cracked earth; giant saguaro; the hot air drying the farther west I ride and the sun sinking red. Out there, I would track vipers through the bleached sand and lie beneath the moon’s cool regard, my belly full and swaying with meat. The coyotes would sing my lullaby." THESE SENTENCES!!!!! A collection for the ages, incandescent and seething. Equal parts grief, violence, and want, you’ll be glad for this jagged awakening.
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,390 reviews2,277 followers
July 11, 2021
I think only two stories did it for me, the others were so meh. Some stories I felt the author was trying too hard but that could be me.

I will say I loved how the author explored relationships, especially the young couple who married too young and was navigating life.

I don't know....overall this did not work for me.
Profile Image for Dana.
667 reviews9 followers
February 18, 2021
Milk Blood Heat is a stunning collection of short stories. I felt such a strong connection to this book and it's one I can see myself not only rereading, but thinking about for a very long time.

The emotions expressed in these short stories are so gripping, so raw. I was on a journey with each character, completely absorbed.

These stories did not conclude in a pretty package tied with a bow. Instead they left me thinking, reflecting on what I just read. Each story with a well constructed ending but perhaps not one the reader was expecting.

All in all, I recommend this thought provoking short story collection. I can't wait to see what's next for Moniz!

Huge thank you to PGC Books and Grove Atlantic for my copy!
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books905 followers
February 22, 2021
In its way, this collection of short stories reminded me of Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street. That book's vignettes had a few men and boys, sure, but it was all about the women, heart and soul. Thus, "A Las Mujeres" (For the Women) -- the dedication you see before reading Cisneros' first vignette -- might be at home on a dedication page of Moniz's Milk Blood Heat as well.

There are short stories with very young girls coming of age too soon by listening to adults and forming their own secret worlds, sometimes with dire results. There are stories with women stuck in relationships, stories of women dealing with pregnancy, stories of women trying to rectify broken relationships with their brothers.

Often the character lighting the way is another woman. Even in a story like "Snow" where the married protagonist bartender (female) is enamored of a waiter (male) she works with, it is a stranger walking into the bar (another female) who steals the climactic moment and offers some semblance of wisdom to consider.

If you haven't read a lot of women authors, a book like this is good medicine. Some women authors focus on strong men, but Moniz is all about strong women, age 9 to grandmotherly 70-somethings. Me, growing up in a family of brothers and no sisters, I learn a lot from writing like this. Unlike adult men, most women hold onto friendships as strong as when they were kids and, like a rock, it's there when they need it.

Good variety, good writing, little repetition in themes. Enjoyable, then.
Profile Image for Michelle.
593 reviews447 followers
March 8, 2021
An impressive short story collection by a debut author (you know I love my debut authors!). I had the pleasure of listening to this thanks to Libro.fm. Michelle Williams was the narrator and she did a fantastic job.

Profile Image for Theresa.
227 reviews140 followers
February 22, 2021
Such a stunning short story collection. Dantiel W. Moniz's writing style is so lyrical, witty, and deeply emotional. The title story was my favorite. It made me tear up. About 2 teenage best friends who feel alone in the world. "Tongues", "The Loss of Heaven", "The Hearts of Our Enemies", "Necessary Bodies", and "Thicker than Water" were also the gems of this collection. Honestly, I enjoyed all 11 stories. This book was hard-hitting which is important when it comes to short stories. They should be memorable and make an impact. Some of the subject matter might be triggering for some, including: suicide, miscarriage, sexual and physical abuse, cancer, and drug use. All the stories take place in sunny Florida, and include multi-racial characters. I'm so glad I got an opportunity to read this. Highly recommended!

Thank you, Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for the digital ARC.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
903 reviews776 followers
June 20, 2022
Stunning. These stories are raw, unresolved, crystalline, and opaque at the same time. The words ache with talent.

Emotional resonance: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Strength of collection: ★★★★

First off, a short callout to Call Number Box (pun intended) for bringing this short story collection to my attention. Call Number Box is a quarterly book subscription that focuses on new Black literature and is curated with a very cool librarian vibe (we get call numbers, library stickers, etc.).

On to the collection now. Milk Blood Heat was, to put it simply, stunning. I don't have much more to say on the subject without rambling endlessly, so instead, enjoy some short thoughts on each of the stories:

Milk Blood Heat - 5 stars
A heavy opener. Two girls turn 13, become blood sisters despite their skin color. Only one girl makes it through, and she's left to pick apart the duality of life.

Feast - 5 stars
This one is definitely a trigger warning: avoid it if you have sensitivity for miscarriages and bodily discussions. One woman can't move on from an early miscarriage and her obsession consumes her.

Tongues - 4.5 stars
Tackling the patriarchal nonsense at the heart of hardcore Christianity, this is another coming-of-age story packed with teeth. Shivers abound from some of those lines.

The Loss of Heaven - 4 stars
Fred is an aging man. Fred thinks he is important and that the flirting bartender authentically cares for him—it helps him avoid thoughts of his dying wife. Fred is wrong. This was a longer story and while excellent, I have to be honest, I wish this collection had been entirely female.

The Hearts of Our Enemies - 5 stars
Mothers and daughters, both realizing that the other is just a woman, making choices in a man's world filled with snakes.

Outside the Raft - 3 stars
This one was my personal least favorite of the bunch. It's a survival story of two young girls in a deadly moment on the water, and while well-told it wasn't memorable in this all-star collection.

Snow - 4.5 stars
I feel conflicted about this one. Maybe it's because I've been there before - a woman unsatisfied in her circumstance... but is she actually unsatisfied, or is she just in need of a reality check?

Necessary Bodies - 5 stars
This one was a PUNCH. A woman is pregnant, she hasn't told her mother, and she's ruminating her ultimate choices as she plans her mother's birthday party. I loved the ending.

Thicker Than Water - 4.5 stars
Obviously this collection is filled with heavy topics, so this initial road trip story is much darker than it first appears—and the beginning is already pretty grim. I liked it for its complexities, I disliked it for its complexities. Strong emotions.

Exotics - not rated
Commentary on the dehumanization of society from the eyes of the "elite." Another one with some chills, albeit small ones as this story was so short.

[Last story, which I have forgotten] - unrated
I'm typing this up away from my copy, and I've forgotten this one. Will update the review when I can.

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Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,617 followers
May 2, 2021
Milk Blood Heat is Dantiel W. Moniz’s bewitching debut collection of powerful short stories. One of the most exciting discoveries in today's literary landscape, the anthology depicts the sultry lives of Floridians in intergenerational tales that contemplate human connection, race, womanhood, inheritance, and the elemental darkness in us all. Set among the cities and suburbs of Florida, each story delves into the ordinary worlds of young girls, women, and men who find themselves confronted by extraordinary moments of violent personal reckoning. These intimate portraits of people and relationships scour and soothe and blast a light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, consumption, and what we may, or may not, owe one another. In the title story a thirteen-year-old meditates on her sadness and the difference between herself and her white best friend as they enter into blood pacts, converse about death and experiment all while exploring their freedom, when an unexpected tragedy occurs.

A woman recovering from a miscarriage finds herself unable to let go of her daughter--whose body parts she sees throughout her daily life in deeply affecting spectral imagery, in Feast; In Tongues, a teenager resists the stranglehold of her family’s brutal religious patriarchy and that of their church pastor and is accused of courting the devil leading her on a transformative journey of self-discovery; and two estranged siblings take a road trip to Santa Fe with their father's ashes and are forced to face the troubling reality of how he continues to shape them while attempting to fix their long-fractured relationship, in Thicker Than Water. Necessary Bodies tells the story of a woman with a somewhat rocky relationship with her mother who must decide whether she herself is ready to become a mother as she opts to either keep or abort her new pregnancy as she plans an event far more inconsequential: her mother’s lavish 50th birthday party.

And a middle-aged man finds himself escaping to the local pub to cope with his wife’s decision to decline chemotherapy to treat her cancer, in The Loss of Heaven. The 11 stories all focus on transformative experiences in the lives of women featuring themes such as loss, love, temptation, coming-of-age, death, motherhood and the strain of family life. We follow each of the women as their lives fracture and emotion comes to the forefront. The themes are so diverse yet as a whole are cohesive and it's clear that these stories are interconnected through the portrayal of such emotion and the precise, moving prose underlining each one. A dark, compelling set of multilayered stories with characters who exude humanity. Each tale stands on its own but it's as a whole that these pieces make the most impact. Wise and subversive, spiritual and seductive, Milk Blood Heat forms an ouroboros of stories that bewitch with their truth, announcing the arrival of a bright new literary star. Highly recommended.
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