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Stories Of Myths and Mothers
By Kenzie Millar, Gaynor Jones, Sascha Akhtar, Clayton Lister and Helen Nathaniel-Fulton
Folklore and futurism: these stories question everything from the guest worker economy to childbirth as the world collapses. Follow hairpin turns into the remote hillsides of North Yorkshire, where two boys take a holiday with their besom-wielding, rabbit-skinning granny. Disappear into dark caves on Philippine islands and scale sheer limestone cliffs with men who search for the world’s most expensive animal product: prized nests woven from a mysterious bird’s saliva, rumoured to make one live forever. Feel sand under your feet in the middle of the night as you search for love beyond limits. You will long to hold a child, even when that instinct has been erased from your body and mind. Of Myths and Mothers will make you see some of our most accepted customs in a new light and fill you with wonder, as the best stories do.
From 'May We Know Them' by Gaynor Jones -
"They debate whether to send it to carry on down the river, to perhaps say a prayer over it, release it back into the water, watch it disappear from their lives. This is all communicated wordlessly in the raising of Helen’s eyebrow, beneath her bluntly cut fringe. In the flush of colour in Juliana’s hollow cheeks. In the air that hangs stagnant between them. They stand, ankle deep, the warm water seeping into their boots until Helen offers her hand to Juliana. They move together, carry the basket and the thing within it to the riverbank and place it on the dry earth, steady and sure. They look at it resting on the ground where the guts of the trout they caught earlier lie browning in the afternoon heat and form a heart shape above its head."
From The Last of the Nest Gatherers by Sascha Akhtar
"I knew the story. I knew all the stories; how for centuries the men in my family had sustained their families through gathering the coveted nests, selling them to the rich. The craggy, limestone cliffs, weathered into caverns and hollows of the remote archipelago of Pabellon had given my family everything. My father, grandfather and uncles traversed the aquamarine sea in engine-propelled bangkas fitted with bamboo outriggers , like they had done for generations.
We, my family and my village, continued the ancient ways of gathering nests, with nothing more than bamboo poles (which our village was famous for carving) and bundles of the finest bamboo rope made by my mother and women from other families. We sold these ropes to other nest-gatherers; busyadores.
“Your Mamma, she make the best rope. With her love.”
My mother would smile when my father praised her so — before yelling at him. “I must to make the strongest ropes! You know how you tell a good bamboo rope from a bad one? If it sound hollow like cardboard it no good! Mine, not sound like cardboard, every year, new rope — new rope. Only Bamboo! No Rattan! I don’t want you to die! When will you stop doing this work? You are crazy man!”
My father would, of course, laugh. “Crazy man! What crazy man! Crazy man make money for us! Money send Kevin and Elena to school!”
"Jones has created an unsettling, near-the-bone world in May We Know Them, with taut, vivid prose that grips the reader. A triumph of short fiction; this is the type of piece that the genre was made for." - Catherine Menon, author of Fragile Monsters
"Helen Nathaniel-Fulton's electric combination of the visceral and compassionate invites the reader into her memories of post-war Germany where, as a student worker. she competes with immigrants for a range of appallingly brutal and mind-numbing jobs. She witnesses overt racism towards and among the immigrants, and must endure sexism towards herself. The deceptively calm tone draws the reader in, as though these stories are being related over a cup of coffee - but watch out for those narrative swerves! It's a riveting read and belongs on your bedside table." - Sandra Hunter, author of Losing Touch
"Given that two of my biggest blindspots are historical fiction and epistolary fiction and I still loved her story, I must put that down to Kenzie Millar’s silky prose and the thrilling wonders she teases out of the depths." Nicholas Royle, writer, editor and Manchester Fiction Prize judge
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