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House of Skin: Prize-Winning Stories

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  28 reviews
From best-selling Hawaiian author, Kiana Davenport, comes HOUSE OF SKIN, her first collection of prize-winning stories, including The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, and The Best American Short Stories of 2000 (selected by E.L.Doctorow.)

These are provocative, often shocking, tales of obsession, love, racism, addiction, betrayal, even murder, but told in such sensuou
Kindle Edition, 120 pages
Published (first published November 30th 2010)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've had an odd reaction to this collection twice now. Both times I've liked the first story, House of Skin, and loved the second, The Lipstick Tree. The House of Skin is about a girl whose uncle has full tattoos over his whole body. She develops a kind of love for him as a child which never leaves her, but as she becomes an adult she sees the weaknesses in her aunt's and his marriage. It has a strange and shocking ending.

The Lipstick Tree is a rather wonderful story about a young woman living i
Mar 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Copy of my review on

(No major spoilers)

I’d never heard of Kiana Davenport until I stumbled across Joe Konrath’s blog on self-publishing; Konrath had just published a letter from Davenport to him, in which she thanked him for inspiring her to self-publish her short stories, after her publishers had turned them down (despite the fact that her novels had previously been quite successful). Konrath pretty much challenged all his readers to purchase a copy of ‘House of Skin’ for their Ki
I picked up this anthology (ebook) on a whim, after reading a promotional blogpost. It's definitely outside my normal reading picks, but it was worth my time. Auntie talks good story.

Davenport weaves wonderful imagery into these tales of love, despair, and decay. She has a strong “islander” voice, and anyone who has spent time listening to traditional storytellers knows that it's a distinctive quality that can't really be classified in any other way. In reading, I wondered repeatedly how each st
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is my first time reading anything written by Kiana Davenport.
Her writing style is extraordinary.
I started the collection in August and had a few breaks in between reading. It's the kind of stuff that's best read in small doses, spread over a few sittings, so you have a chance to absorb and savor the rich lyrical writing, as well as wrap your brain around some of the socio-economic issues, customs, beliefs and practices that these stories contain.

Each story boasts: an exotic setting, a univ
Caught Between Pages
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Violetta Vane
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The writing shines. It's absolutely gorgeous, brilliant, even blinding. It's clean and to the point, even spare, and then there'll be a bit of figurative language that absolutely kills. It would punch me in the gut and I'd have to take a deep breath. Here are some examples.

Sexual obsession:
She suddenly smiled. “I let him take me right then, like two lizards in wet grass.”

An opium dream:
Then his fist was a warm, steady mass in my palm. We lay on our sides puffing and someone moaned above us in a
Laura Zimmerman
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm typically not a short-story reader but after reading the reviews for this collection of stories, I was intrigued. The author's style is different from what I'm accustomed to reading so I found myself having to pay more attention than usual. Her imagery included descriptions not commonly found in American stories (at least in my experience): lush, lyrical, tropical, and sometimes tribal imagery that conjured customs and cultures from a time long past. Each of the stories is dark in its own wa ...more
Kathleen Valentine
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
These are some of the most astonishing stories I've ever read. Kiana Davenport writes tight, clean, gorgeous prose that is beautifully descriptive without being wordy. Her characters are developed with precision and breath-taking honesty, rare in short stories.

These stories, all of which take place on South Pacific islands, including Fiji, Pentecost Island, Nauru and Hawaii are both beautiful and brutal -- and painfully honest about the lives of the women who fill them.

The title story, House of
Scott Gray
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Though I love good fiction of just about every stripe, my main interest has always been speculative fiction and literary fantasy. I was thus a little bit confused when a friend, knowing of that particular predilection, recommended House of Skin to me, saying "You'll never read another world as fantastic as this one."

That invitation doesn't go nearly far enough in expressing the extraordinary degree of wonder and humanity in Kiana Davenport's stories. With an extraordinarily succinct yet poetic
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle-lendables
One of the best books I have ever read. Should be on everyone's required reading list if only to counteract all the books by dead white men. Fascinating stories set in islands across the Pacific, places I've never been and may never make it to, yet still about universal themes like what happens when you marry the tattooed bad boy, move far from home and come back for a visit. Rich juicy stories you will think about for months. The only downside is now everything else I read seems anemic by compa ...more
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Unusual, poignant stories about the darker side of human lives, internal conflicts and conflict relationships. All the main characters are trying to break away from the lack of future, the oppressive living conditions, the hopelessness. The stories brought me to exotic places: Hawai'i, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Nauru, Vanatu.
I liked some of the stories more, some less; but what impressed me best was the author's stunningly succinct yet lyrical writing style.
Jan 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-the-world
This is a collection of Pacific Island stories: Hawaii, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. These stories show the darker, seamy side of the Islands.
Christie Bane
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh, God, Kiana Davenport’s books are so deliciously dark. This short story collection is no different. The stories are all set on tropical islands somewhere, either Hawaii or somewhere else in the Pacific. People in the stories do and experience horrible things, but the writing is so good that the horrible things are beautiful to experience. I am truly sorry I’m done with all of Kiana Davenport’s books.
Susan Campbell
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Tough Read

Living in Hawai'i I've heard similar stories but that doesn't make this an easy read. This book is gritty and much too real.
Dena Hankins
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'd give this book a higher rating for the storytelling alone, but it needs editing in a way that I found distracting.

The stories themselves are powerful and convincing, painful and yearning. So much desire and need and such a big gap between the best and the real made me yearn along with the characters.

It is the language, beautiful and visual, that is the first compelling element. The characterizations are next, individuals even among the barely sketched. The fully painted characters scream f
Abigail Hilton
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of stories about Polynesian women coming to terms with their heritage. Each story is told in first person with a style so intense and intimate that it's hard to believe that the author did not actually live each of these lives. The language is lyrical. Every sentence counts. Every sentence packs a punch.

While these are stories that explore being a woman and being Polynesia, they are about so much more than heritage or feminism. They are about internal conflict and profoundly
Samantha Davenport
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful collection. Kiana Davenport has a beautiful and unique narrative voice which I always enjoy no matter what her topic. If you have read her other work you will find familiar themes; if not then this is a lovely sampler of her style. It's also a chance to support indy publishing:

Shannis Knight
May 05, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was recommended by a blogger I like, and for the most part, the writing itself is solid. But some of the stories veer off into a little too much weirdness for me. Nothing I can be specific about since it's been a few weeks since I read it, and I will admit to not wanting to do the work that it probably required to get a better understanding of it. ...more
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Raw and beautiful - Kiana Davenport's collection of short stories is something you need to read. With an economy of words, Ms. Davenport captures the love, pain, sorrow and joy of life among the people of the Pacific Islands. Some of the stories will shock you, others may leave you crying. But once you begin to read them, you will not be able to stop.

Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-fire
Many of these stories were so familiar; I likely read them when they were in O Henry and Best American (as those were the years when I'd read those series religiously, believing I would be a fiction writer one day). Davenport's work is tight and good; I'm looking forward to the two subsequent collections. ...more
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is so unbelievably good! I had never heard of this author before I heard her story on Joe Konrath's blog so I bought her book. And I can tell you I was not disappointed, she is really a good writer. ...more
Delilah Fawkes
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous, lyrical writing :). These stories were nothing short of breathtaking. It would have been a five, but some of them are tragic, which lessens my personal enjoyment, although they were beautiful to read.
Debi Faulkner
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book full of stories about women who have faced their lives and cultures head on. Sometimes they are able to come to peace with it; sometimes they are overwhelmed by it. But, the stories are always beautiful, and each one touched me deeply.
Val Wilkerson
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-books-read
A book of short stories by Kiana Davenport. I have read several of her books
and her short stories are just as good, all written about life on different
islands, she paints great pictures with her words.
Sariah S.
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
So talented - but there may be sections that make some readers uncomfortable. She's one of those writers that make you feel what it's like to be a member of a different ethnic group in a different time period, and I so admire the ability to do that! Some language, some explicit situations. ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fairly dark book, but very well written and well worth the read. A different point of view is a good thing in this world, don't you think? ...more
Kristian Alva
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, haunting reading... I'm a big fan of Kiana Davenport's writing, and these stories are some of the best I've ever read. Just incredible. ...more
Marissa Hokulani Kamamalu Gibson
Completely enthralled...can't put it down. ...more
Stacey Benefiel
rated it it was amazing
Mar 31, 2011
Ipolani Bovee
rated it it was amazing
Aug 13, 2016
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KIANA DAVENPORT is descended from a full-blooded Native Hawaiian mother, and a Caucasian father from Talladega, Alabama. Her father, Braxton Bragg Davenport, was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor, when he fell in love with her mother, Emma Kealoha Awaawa Kanoho Houghtailing. On her mother's side, Kiana traces her ancestry back to the first Polynesian settlers to the Hawaiian Isl ...more

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