It’s not every day that you get to celebrate a former student’s book release. I can’t tell you how proud I am of Beth Gilstrap (pictured above), who was in my graduate publishing practicum at Chatham University. The full blurb for I AM BARBARELLA had to be condensed for obvious reasons, but I’d like to post it here, since it nicely sums up how I feel about this collection:
This is a leathery, beautiful, steel-toed collection. Each story is a labyrinth—tall, weathered, and covered in vines—containing at least one Minotaur in the form of an oddly heartbreaking description or a perfect Southern turn of phrase or a mother’s surprising-yet-inevitable gesture.
Ranging from damaged, unforgettable characters to sharp portraits of Southern landscapes to family intrigue and wicked flashes of humor, the delights here are spring-loaded, carefully placed, and patiently waiting.
Despite her attention to setting, the (often-interconnected) stories here are ultimately about people contemplating the hidden costs of their own “magnificent mistakes.” Just like us, they struggle to do right and come surprisingly close at times, and this collection has some remarkably powerful moments as it examines the beauty and heartbreak that stem from our unique frailties. This book is both an indictment and a celebration of “how similar we are to porcelain on the inside,” and it’s definitely a ride worth taking.
I was happy to read it for the blurb, and I can’t wait until my pre-ordered copy arrives so I can read it again. There aren’t many books I can say that about, period.
Author photo by Tatyana M Semyrog.