Thursday, October 8, 2015

#HalloweenRead: A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i (Alaya Dawn Johnson)

Post-Twilight, post-The Strain, post- a thousand books and TV shows and movies, you'd think that vampire fiction as a subgenre would be bled dry (Thank you! Good night, folks! Tip your waiter!).

But then you read a story like Alaya Dawn Johnson's award-winning A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i, and you remember that vampires are eternally vibrant monsters in the hands of assured storytellers.

Johnson's short story takes familiar tropes and transplants them to a setting that renders them freshly intriguing in this tale of a conquered people. A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i is sharply focused and surefooted, Johnson's narrative voice imbuing the story with an ambiguous, fiercely melancholy resonance. This is a story about literal monsters, yes, but it's also a story about colonization and the parasitical aspects of tourism. That aspect never becomes stridently preachy or distracting - it's simply there, present and potent and sad. Johnson's protagonist, Key, is vividly drawn, her deeply conflicted inner life opened to us like halves of the cherimoya fruit she cherishes, both sweet and poisonous.

Why is a tropical vampire story on a list of suggested Halloween reads? Well, for one, it's just a damn good story. For another, places like Hawai'i celebrate fall and winter holidays too. They may not have fall foliage and chilly nights, but they still have a need for unsettling tales. Alaya Dawn Johnson's story is unsettling, and more.

 Read A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i FOR FREE on Alaya Dawn Johnson's site.

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