LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
“The stories in Black Light are grimy and weird, surprising, utterly lush. . . . I loved every moment of this book.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.
Taking us from hot Texas highways to cold family kitchens, from the freedom of pay-by-the-hour motels to the claustrophobia of private school dorms, these stories erupt off the page with a primal howl—sharp-voiced, acerbic, and wise.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
With this short-story collection, Kimberly King Parsons makes a smart, exciting debut on the fiction scene. These twelve stories—all set in Parsons’ native Texas—are a varied lot, from a tender vignette about teenage girls trying to make sense of their sexuality to a transgressive tale of co-workers whose idea of playing hooky includes a drug binge in a seedy motel. Parsons shows off a confident literary voice: She sets vivid, true-to-life scenes without getting bogged down in extraneous detail, and her characters feel both relatable and unpredictable. Often funny and occasionally shocking, Black Light is a fast, satisfying read from a writer we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on.
Parsons's debut crackles with the frenetic energy of the women who stalk its pages. In opening story "Guts," Sheila has just started dating "almost-doctor" Tim, whose particular brand of condescending masculine practicality destabilizes her already-erratic lifestyle. In "Foxes," a recently divorced mother recounts her courtship and marriage to her ex-husband, whom she calls "the fool," as she listens to her young daughter spin a story featuring knights and inky enemies, and the two stories begin to intertwine and mimic the cadences of each other. "Foxes" kicks off a dazzling run of stories, including "The Soft No," in which a pair of siblings must navigate neighborhood politics as well as their unpredictable mother, to "We Don't Come Natural to It," in which two women's pursuit of beauty becomes a vortex of self-inflicted violence, control, and mistrust. In the title story, a young woman watches as her former lover evolves into someone she realizes she never knew, while she must navigate the breakup in a way that doesn't out her sexuality. Parsons's characters are sharp and uncannily observed, bound up in elastic and electrifying prose. This is a first-rate debut.