Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽'s Reviews > What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
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really liked it
bookshelves: horror, the-shorts

Halloween shorts!

The mud and leaves baby, the porcelain baby and the hair baby:
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This is a creepy story in the New Yorker magazine, free online at the New Yorker magazine. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Ogechi, an assistant hairdresser, accidentally unravels the leg of her baby made out of yarn, not noticing its small cries of protest. Not wanting the baby to grow up maimed, she unravels the rest of the baby and decides to try again later, to make a living baby out of some more durable material. Ogechi is too destitute to make a baby out of anything expensive; she needs to work with the materials on hand. Luckily a hair salon has lots of hair clippings that won’t be missed by anyone, and Ogechi doesn’t believe the old stories that a baby made out of hairs taken from more than person is dangerous. (<-----She should.)

“Who Will Greet You at Home” is a creepy tale with an unusual African setting. Lesley Nneka Arimah has created a fantastical yet down-to-earth culture where women create babies out of different materials ― mud, yarn, raffia, porcelain, paper ― and the babies are then blessed with life by the women’s mothers, or by other women who have the power to give life.
Even the raffia children of that morning seemed like dirty sponges meant to soak up misfortune when compared with the china child to whom misfortune would never stick. If Ogechi’s mother had seen the child, she would have laughed at how ridiculous such a baby would be, what constant coddling she would need. It would never occur to her that mud daughters needed coddling, too.
If a baby is cared for and kept safe for a full year, it will then turn into a child of flesh, whose personality reflects the materials it was originally made of. Ogechi is estranged from her own mother, so she needs to pay Mama, the cold-hearted proprietor of the hair salon, to give her child life. And since Ogechi doesn’t have enough money, she needs to pay Mama in other ways.

There were a couple of aspects to the plot and setting that didn’t quite hold water for me: men seem to have no place at all in this culture, and most of the women seem to be oddly focused on having a child. The story devolves toward the end into a predictable horror plot. Still, the richly detailed setting was a pleasure to read about, and Ogechi’s pain and desperation at not having a child of her own, her jealousy of other women who do, and her deep longing to have a child that is made of something whimsical and lovely ― not of mud, like Ogechi herself ― feel poignantly real.

The New Yorker also has an excellent interview with Arimah, discussing the ideas that went into this particular story
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Reading Progress

October 23, 2016 – Started Reading
October 23, 2016 – Shelved
October 23, 2016 – Shelved as: horror
October 23, 2016 – Shelved as: the-shorts
October 23, 2016 – Finished Reading

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