A calm & normal heart Stories

Chelsea T. Hicks

Book - 2022

"From Oklahoma to California, the many heroes of [this collection of short stories] ... are bound by a common desire for connection and safety--inside a nation in which they have always lived but do not entirely belong. A member of the Osage tribe, author Chelsea T. Hicks' stories are compelled by an overlooked diaspora happening inside the borders of the United States itself: that of young Native people"--Dust jacket flap.

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Short stories
Los Angeles, CA : The Unnamed Press [2022]
Main Author
Chelsea T. Hicks (author)
First edition
Item Description
Title page, dust jacket, chapter title pages and page 3 include text in the Wazhazhe ie language, the language of the Wazhazhe people.
Physical Description
180 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
  • Author's note
  • Tsexope
  • A fresh start
  • By Alcatraz
  • Superdrunk
  • Brother
  • A small urge
  • Wets'a
  • My kind of woman
  • The wife
  • Full tilt
  • House of RGB
  • The good medicine of the light.
Review by Booklist Review

Hicks, an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation, debuts with a short-story collection that fearlessly both embraces and upends Native American tradition and storytelling. Young women take center stage as they navigate sex, love, and general life transitions in lands, from Oklahoma to California, that are theirs and not, where they belong and don't. As Mary explains in "By Alcatraz" when she's asked to join a Friendsgiving celebration after saying she doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, "I feel like I live in a different country that's here, inside this one, but no one believes my country exists." In "Brother," Mina tries to impress her California friends by bringing them to the fanciest spot in Osage County, the casino, only to have violence erupt. Whether her characters are navigating relationships with white men and women, reconnecting with childhood friends and slipping into speaking Wazhazhe ie (the Osage language that Hicks includes throughout), or negotiating with ghosts of ancestors, Hicks beautifully renders their motivations, contradictions, joys, and struggles. This collection announces Hicks as a writer to know.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Brilliant debut stories about the lives of contemporary Native women. " 'Coming home' inspires me to write," observes Hicks, a member of the Osage Nation, in her acknowledgements. Home is important to her characters, too, whether it's a geographical place (like Oklahoma or California, the sites of significant Osage communities) or a sense of belonging. That's what Mary, in "By Alcatraz," wants when she finds herself at a Thanksgiving dinner, having to explain to her White-guy host that the "bucolic feast celebrating generosity" was "in fact a mass poisoning." "What I hate," she explains, "…is I feel like I live in a different country that's here, inside this one, but no one believes my country exists." The idea of home also draws Hicks' self-aware but emotionally shutdown women back to places shot through with trauma, whether historical or personal, and also sends them fleeing. Her women are often the daughters of abusive fathers, the wives and girlfriends of men who don't hit them too often but don't really love them, either. They wander so slowly toward decisive action that it's harrowing to watch them save themselves. In "Superdrunk," 19-year-old Laney contemplates having an affair with a 30-year-old alcoholic to escape her dad, whose sexual attention has warped her self-worth. But they do save themselves, and it's a testament to Hicks' considerable talent that her characters' senses of dislocation and turmoil are tempered by their feminine power (or "know-how," as one character puts it) and connection to cultural traditions. These stories often seem a little odd, the events in them random and chaotic, but that's very much the point. Hicks' brilliance is that she doesn't explain things to White readers and doesn't translate the Wazhazhe ie (the traditional language of the Osage) sprinkled throughout, as though to pose the question: "Whose home?" Dark and darkly comic stories that herald an important new voice in American letters. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.