Dark Soil: Fictions and Mythographies

A stunning blend of "history, biography, geography, and mythmaking," Dark Soil: Fictions and Mythographies is a complex experimental anthology that encourages readers to consider their relationships to space anew, through both uncovering and reimagining. Curated and edited by Angie Sijun Lou, the book presents 10 short stories by National Book Award finalist Karen Tei Yamashita (I Hotel), followed by pieces from eight other writers that include essays and lyric poetry.

Yamashita's tales, collected in the first part of the book under the title "Santa Cruz Nori," explore hidden landmarks of Santa Cruz, Calif. These stories bear witness to obscured versions of the same place, seen through the eyes of people often marginalized or objectified by history. She allows her characters to reclaim spaces they may have been erased from. The fictions at times border on the surreal or the fantastical, but in doing so, cast a different light on places people think they know well.

The curated essays and other works in the second part of the collection echo and mirror this process, with each author diving deep into a particular space that they felt especially connected to, as Saretta Morgan does with the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. These pieces urge readers to reexamine their relationships to places, to history, to how humans document or consider what qualities about a space serves its ongoing importance. As a result, Lou's unifying goal shines through: Dark Soil serves as "a field guide for understanding our future and its terrain of struggle" that ultimately reconfigures how readers might see themselves in the contexts of the places they pass through. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer

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