"Queer, dirty, insightful, and so funny" (Andrea Lawlor), this coyly revolutionary debut story collection imagines new origins and futures for its cast of unforgettable protagonists—almost all of whom are named Sarah.
FINALIST FOR THE GOLDEN POPPY AWARD FOR FICTION
NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2021 BY THE MILLIONS * OPRAH MAGAZINE * LAMBDA LITERARY * ELECTRIC LITERATURE * REFINERY29 * COSMO * THE ADVOCATE * ALMA * PAPERBACK PARIS * WRITE OR DIE TRIBE * READS RAINBOW
In Sarahland, Sam Cohen brilliantly and often hilariously explores the ways in which traditional stories have failed us, both demanding and thrillingly providing for its cast of Sarahs new origin stories, new ways to love the planet and those inhabiting it, and new possibilities for life itself. In one story, a Jewish college Sarah passively consents to a form-life in pursuit of an MRS degree and is swept into a culture of normalized sexual violence. Another reveals a version of Sarah finding pleasure—and a new set of problems—by playing dead for a wealthy necrophiliac. A Buffy-loving Sarah uses fan fiction to work through romantic obsession. As the collection progresses, Cohen explodes this search for self, insisting that we have more to resist and repair than our own personal narratives. Readers witness as the ever-evolving "Sarah" gets recast: as a bible-era trans woman, an aging lesbian literally growing roots, a being who transcends the earth as we know it. While Cohen presents a world that will clearly someday end, "Sarah" will continue.
In each Sarah's refusal to adhere to a single narrative, she potentially builds a better home for us all, a place to live that demands no fixity of self, no plague of consumerism, no bodily compromise, a place called Sarahland.
Cohen's wonderfully bizarre debut collection explores identity, sexuality, and relationships through a series of stories about characters named Sarah. In the title story, college student Sarah A. breaks free of her social clique and is increasingly drawn to a rebellious acquaintance in a narrative that may remind readers of the film Heathers. "Exorcism, or Eating My Twin" features a 26-year-old Buffy fan fiction writer named Sarah who meets her "twin" in an English literature PhD candidate. She calls her Tegan after the two sing a Tegan and Sarah song for karaoke, as a code to describe their budding relationship ("it was like we had encountered the musical theater demon and could only give language to our feelings through... pop lyrics"). An older Sarah transforms into a tree in the peculiar "Becoming Trees." The eerie "The Purple Epoch" concludes the book and imagines a world where new creatures are born from the remains of past Sarahs. Throughout, Cohen cleverly reimagines the world through a queer lens and uses pop culture and fairy tale references to illustrate the various lives, stories, and worlds the Sarahs can inhabit. A thought-provoking work, Cohen's collection surprises and excites.