Violetta Vane's Reviews > House of Skin: Prize-Winning Stories

House of Skin by Kiana Davenport
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's review
Mar 08, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: multicultural-or-interracial
Read in March, 2012 — I own a copy

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 dream. Soon the gum had burned away and Wu blew out the lamps. The sweet smoke clotted my lungs and I wanted to be sick. I tried to say this. To open my eyes. Form. The. Words. But I was massively adrift. Somewhere in the Gobi, a Mongol milked a singing horse. Caravans approached. Someone quietly removed my skin.

Setting the place:
We came from the rough tribes of Waianae, wild west coast of the island. Here, native clans spawned outcasts and felons, yet our towns had names like lullabyes. Makaha, Ma’ili, Nanakuli, Lualualei. In Nanakuli, a valley slung like a hammock between mountain and sea, I was born in a house known for its damaged men.

Most of these stories are told in the style of a very lucid dream; we as readers dip in and out of the narrators' minds. The use of omniscient POV is masterful. We'll get the sociohistorical information we need in a way that poetically enriches the story. She does in such a way that even dictionary definitions sound like a song.

The author is most familiar with Hawaii, obviously, but I think it's awesome that she's stretching geographically in this book, all across the Pacific, to places and cultures that are astonishingly diverse. People who live in grass huts and sleep with piglets have complicated stories just like the people who drive Lamborghinis. A lot of these stories are cruel, especially men being cruel to women or women being cruel to themselves, but they're all joyful in the way that they're told, if that makes any sense. Sometimes I felt like I was reading a style halfway between pulp and high literature, lurid and remote all at the same time.

The treatment of race and cultural hybridity is also incredibly rich, and from my perspective, spot-on. Like I felt this was speaking directly to me at several points. If you are a multi-racial/ethnic/cultural woman, these stories center you, absolutely.

In terms of the individual stories—I loved all of them. The only critical thing I can say about this collection is that the ebook formatting is terrible. Not to the point of being unreadable, but there are still many errors such as weirdly hyphenated words. Hopefully it will be rereleased eventually with cleaner formatting.

I'm on to Cannibal Nights now. This book was incredible and I recommend it to anyone who loves beautiful writing.

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Violetta Vane This book and two other story compilations by Kiana Davenport are currently on sale for $0.99. http://kianadavenportdialogues.blogsp...

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