Welcome to Weekly Wonder! This is a weekly series in which we add the cream of the literary crop to your TBRs.
This week’s Wonder is:
THE SMALL BACKS OF CHILDREN BY LIDIA YUKNAVITCH
SO, WHAT’S UP WITH THE STORY?
A little girl in Eastern Europe loses her entire family in a bomb blast and the moment is captured by a photographer. While this girl finds her place in the world, a writer friend of the photographer, distressed by the loss of her child, begins to write a story based on the little girl’s life. When the writer is battling death with an unfinished manuscript at her table, her fellow artists go on a quest to bring her the girl in hopes of giving her the will to live. They think they are “rescuing” her. Are they? Read the book to find out!
Still in two minds? Check this trailer out:
A GLIMPSE BETWEEN THE PAGES
“Who are we in moments of crisis or despair? Do we become deeper, truer selves, or lift up and away from a self, untethered from regular meanings like moths suddenly drawn toward heat or light? Are we better people when someone might be dying, and if so, why? Are we weaker, or stronger? Are we beautiful, or abject? Serious, or cartoon? Do we secretly long for death to remind us we are alive?”
“Any child is stronger than a mother, since the love we have for our children could kill us.”
“Memory has no syntax.”
“Photographs replace memory. Photographs replace lived experience. History.”
“There is a history to art, I’ve learned. Religion. Philosophy. Myth. Photography. I am reading about them. But there are chapters, whole books, missing. I see the stories of women, but they are always stuck inside the stories of men. Why is that?…
I pull down from the shelves a book of world mythology and my sadness grows. Artemis, why the paler sister of Apollo, whom she brought through blood into the world from her mother’s womb with her own hands? I turn to the section about my part of the world, and in the mythology of my so-called people–the goddesses–what use are they? Why did I ever like these stories? What is Gabija, goddess of fire, who protects against unclean people? I do not need this protection. It is a trick to place fear there. What use is Laima, goddess of fate, luck, childbirth, marriage, and death, if she keeps women inside the house, away from the open space of the world? Saule–saint of orphans, symbol of the sun…who cannot teach me what the fire inside me is. Who would have me put it out, or give it to a man? Still, I have torn pictures of them all from books and pasted them next to my own paintings in the barn, hoping for company. Though I find it hard to trust them. I wonder about what they want.”
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT
- The inspiration from this picture:
- The way Yuknavitch brings out the ethical concerns raised by the above picture in the real world. She makes sure that the weight of the ethics is felt without making the book’s focus the morality of war photography. Also, she doesn’t take sides.
- The book brings out the clear distinction between perception and reality in an elegant, subtle way.
- Yuknavitch breaks the conventions of narrative and plays around with different forms.
- The multiple narrators make the book very interesting. The little girl in the photograph; its photographer; the writer; her husband, the filmmaker; her ex-husband, the artist; her brother, the playwright; a performance artist, a painter and a poet (I think I got them all) all contribute to the tale in their unique, distinct ways.
- None of the narrators are named. Their art is their identity. In fact, the narrative style of each artist corresponds to their art and personality. For instance, the painter focuses primarily on faces and the expressions on those faces and the poet, being a dominatrix, has a tendency to notice how dependant an individual is on others.
- The corporeal style is amazing. Yuknavitch writes by and through the body. Her work is a bodily, fleshly, carnal, somatic, human, mortal, earthly, physical, material being.
- I love the sheer personal nature of the book. I could sense that this writer has suffered great loss and has led a significantly disturbed life just by reading the book. I had no choice but to explore deeper into Yuknavitch’s life and read her other books.
- Yuknavitch explores the nature of art; the boundaries between art and reality; the interaction between an artist’s life and their work and most importantly, the role that art plays in the life of an artist.
- Yuknavitch is very honest is her portrayal of sex and violence. So much so that this book is not recommended for those who are easily disturbed or offended.
I hope you like the book as much as I did! Do let me know what you think in the comments!
Already read it? How did it resonate with you? Do you agree/disagree with anything I wrote in this post? Put it all in the comments!