I know that it is Valentine’s Day tomorrow – and so I thought of sharing this book that I find to be a love-letter to monsters: those that live within and outside of each one of us.
Monster Portraits (Amazon | Book Depository)
Written by Sofia Samatar Illustrated by Del Samatar
Published by Rose Metal Press (2017)
ISBN: 1941628109 (ISBN13: 9781941628102). Literary Awards: Selected for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019; Finalist for the Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction. Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
I have a fascination with monsters and catalogues of monsters and vivisections of monsters, having featured quite a number of them here over the years, my favourite being the bestiary created by Christopher Dell (see my review here).
I am not sure what I was expecting when I purchased this illustrated portraiture of monsters by Somali-American siblings Sofia and Del Samatar.
Perhaps something similar to ones I have already read previously: disfigured scary images matched with vignettes or descriptions of said monster. I was not prepared for the poetry in this book: pain and incandescence, vague memories and the unspeakable, spiderwebs of racial cosmography entangled with the make-believe standing precariously on solid ground that is coming from the otherside of the portal.
The psyche of monsters is surgically sliced open, as siblings extracted fragments of remembered conversations, catch the eerie beauty of otherness and expose it to the light, and slap the monstrosity of growing up biracial as perceived by those on the other side of the white fence on the slab to be cracked further open; with the noble intention of disentangling the monster from the monstrous: messy, bloody, and not pretty – yet, always, incandescent.
Needless to say, I fell in love.
#ReadIntl2020 Update: 6 of 30 (country): Somalia (Del and Sofia Samatar are Somali-Americans)