The cover of the Winter 2007 edition of the Indiana Review, painted by Sally Harless, features a moose and a boy in a moose suit staring at each other. This artwork captures two of the themes that are shrewdly explored in this issue: childhood and identity.
Of the stories, my favorites present children navigating a difficult world. “Clippings,” by Vincent Precht, is about a daughter struggling to deal with her father’s absence, while her mother tries to ignore it. This is one of those challenging stories in which the real problem is alluded to only indirectly, but Precht pulls it off masterfully. Rae Paris’s story, “The Girl Who Ate Her Own Skin,” captures the horrors of being a preteen girl forced to attend day camp. Packed with vivid imagery and memorable characters, this twenty-pager is impossible to put down. I also enjoyed Ryan Van Meter’s essay, “Lake Effect,” about a sensitive boy on the verge of discovering he is gay. Unfortunately, this discovery takes place while he is trapped on a houseboat with his sporty dad, his dad’s sporty friends, and the friends’ ruddily heterosexual progeny. This essay has such an artful narrative arc that I was amazed to discover it wasn’t fiction.
I was stunned by Tania Runyan’s poem, “The Goldfish Pond.” In fifteen short lines, Runyan tackles complex subjects through startling imagery: the allure of death, the nature of beauty, the gulf between childhood and adulthood and the illusion of identity, to name a few. Sy Hoahwah’s poem, “NDN Way,” is also a compact, complicated look at identity, written in short bursts of prose. The first stanza explains how the narrator met his wife: “Corey and I met at the Indian hospital; my girlfriend at the time had a miscarriage. Corey had a miscarriage. She was beautiful. She was Kiowa. She liked Comanche guys. She liked The Fall.” From there, the poem becomes haunting, then chilling, and ends with laugh-out-loud humor, an incredible accomplishment.
From its whimsical cover to its intelligent book reviews, this issue of the Indiana Review is a wonderful read.