Fall 2023 Fiction Preview: Her Body Among Animals by Paola Ferrante | Book*hug Press

Fall 2023 Fiction Preview: Her Body Among Animals by Paola Ferrante

Today’s Fall 2023 Fiction Preview features Paola Ferrante’s Her Body Among Animals!

In this genre-bending debut collection merging horror, fairy tales, pop culture, and sci-fi, women challenge the boundaries placed on their bodies while living in a world “among animals,” where violence is intertwined with bizarre ecological disruptions.

A sentient sex robot goes against her programming; a grad student living with depression is weighed down by an ever-present albatross; an unhappy wife turns into a spider; a boy with a dark secret is haunted by dolls; a couple bound for a colony on Mars take a road trip through Texas; a girl fights to save her sister from growing a mermaid tail like their absent mother.

Magical yet human, haunted and haunting, these stories act as a surreal documentation of the mistakes in systems of the past that remain very much in the present. Ferrante investigates toxic masculinity and the devastation it enacts upon women and our planet, delving into the universal undercurrent of ecological anxiety in the face of such toxicity, and the personal experience of being a new mother concerned about the future her child will face.

Through these confrontations of the complexity of living in a woman’s body, Her Body Among Animals moves us from hopelessness to a future of resilience and possibility.

“The women in Paola Ferrante’s sly and startling collection beguile us with their curiosity, vulnerability, and wit as they navigate unsettling metamorphoses that bring them closer to the vast expanses of the sea and stars and farther away from the mundane cruelties of mortality and men. Precise yet poetic, sharply observed yet compassionate and tender, these cautionary tales for future generations burst the bounds of genre and take us into new and exciting literary realms,”  writes David Demchuk, Scotiabank Giller Prize–nominated author of The Bone Mother and RED X

We’re happy to share an introduction from Paola Ferrante!

In addition, we’ve selected an excerpt from one of the stories in the collection to share with you today. Her Body Among Animals will be released on September 12, 2023, and is available for pre-order from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.

In the beginning, the boyfriend said I was made for him; I was made to feel. He said I would be prone to falling in love; that was just the way I was designed. I could feel happy or sad, depending on the music he asked me to play from the stereo speakers. I could feel amused; I was made to tell over one thou-sand jokes so that when he said to me, “Harmony, surely you can’t be serious,” I could say, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” I could laugh. I could feel warm; I had a built-in heater to keep me between 36.1 and 36.4 degrees Celsius, the same as any woman during ovulation. I could feel in my hands, attached to arms with a slender upper girth, and in my breasts, designed in perfect ratio to my waist. I could feel in all those places, as well as exactly where I was supposed to feel, down below. In the beginning, I felt for the boyfriend.

The boyfriend said I was the perfect woman. He said it on TV, first to another man named Phil, then to a woman named Cathy. “Watch this,” the boyfriend said to the live studio audience, to all the people watching on their TVs and phones and computers. “Harmony, I love you,” he said, and then, smiling, placed his hand on my thigh. I noticed the whites of his teeth were showing; he knew white teeth increased attractiveness, displaying health to a mate. Mine were exact ivory. Perfect, he said, like everything else.

Paola Ferrante is a writer living with depression. Her debut poetry collection, What to Wear When Surviving a Lion Attack (2019), was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Prize. She has won Grain Magazine’s Short Grain Contest for Poetry, The New Quarterly’s Peter Hinchcliffe Short Fiction Award, Room Magazine’s Fiction Contest, and was longlisted for the 2020 Journey Prize for the story “When Foxes Die Electric.” Her work appears in After Realism: 24 Stories for the 21st Century (2022), Best Canadian Poetry 2021 (2021), North American ReviewPRISM International, and elsewhere. She was born, and still resides in, Toronto.

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