Epeolatry Book Review: Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, ed. Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn


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Title: Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
Author: Various, ed. Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Omnium Gatherum Media
Release Date: 25th Sept, 2020

Synopsis: Almond-eyed celestial, the filial daughter, the perfect wife. Quiet, submissive, demure. In Black Cranes, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject these traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness’, be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world.Black Cranes is a dark and intimate exploration of what it is to be a perpetual outsider.

This anthology is a rollercoaster of emotions. Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is an edition of cultural storytelling. Painted with a tinge of horror, it offers insight into the struggles of the Asian culture. Sexism, patriarchy, stereotypes, and traditions are ingrained in the character’s lives. Authored by ten women of Asian descent, it’s edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn, both of whom have contributed stories.

While all the stories have a horror undertone, some of them overlap nicely into Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Folklore. This anthology had my emotions running high; one moment I was laughing at the silly predicaments the protagonists got themselves into, and the next moment I had tears when I realized the harrowing challenge of their quandaries. I marveled at each character’s strengths and my heart broke at that same person’s sadness and insecurities.

The foreword is from Alma Katsu (Taker Trilogy, and The Deep), and she gives us a glimpse into shattered stereotypes. These Asian women’s relationships, narrowed into “Geishas” or fierce “Dragon Ladies”, obscures their individuality. Katsu says, “Depersonalization makes it easier to forget that we are each individual with very specific likes, dislikes, dreams, and wishes”. 

Black Cranes demonstrates what happens to those who break into their individuality, or fall under the weight of expectations. Each tale’s Eastern cultural experience is based upon different eras and geographic locations. As an American with a Western European background, this was an education into multifaceted diversity. As a woman, reading this collection was anguishing; the standards and expectations Asian women are projected to live up to, such as foot-binding, made me ache. Despite their anguish, each individual shined.

It was hard to select a story to highlight in this review. Mainly because I felt they all had equal weight and demonstrated a different topic of diversity. All beautifully written and alluring, they are poetically scripted. The characters are complex,  realistic, and have a defined arc with lessons learned. Murray and Flynn did a remarkable job curating this spectacularcollection.

Considering the global turmoil in this final month of 2020, there is no better time for Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women to be published. I think it’s a must read.

5/5 stars

Available from Amazon.

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