Meet Behind Mars by Renee Simms
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“I feel like I can’t tell one story about a giant mustard penis because it’s not about a mustard penis only, but about all of these incidents together, in context, and through time.” So begins the title story in Renee Simms’s debut short story collection, Meet Behind Mars—a revealing look at how geography, memory, ancestry, and desire influence our personal relationships.
In many of her stories, Simms exposes her own interest in issues concerning time and space. For example, in “Rebel Airplanes,” an L.A. engineer works by day on city sewers and by night on R-C planes that she yearns to launch into the cosmos. The character-driven stories in Meet Behind Mars offer beautiful insight into the emotional lives of caretakers, auto workers, dancers, and pawn shop employees. In “High Country,” a frustrated would-be novelist considers ditching her family in the middle of the desert. In “Dive,” an adoptee returns to her adoptive home, still haunted by histories she does not know. Simms writes from the voice of women and girls who struggle under structural oppression and draws from the storytelling tradition best represented by writers like Edward P. Jones, whose characters have experiences that are specific to black Americans living in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. One instance of this is in “The Art of Heroine Worship,” in which black families integrate into a white suburb of Detroit in the 1970s.
The stories in this collection span forty years and two continents and range in structure from epistolary to traditionally structured realism, with touches of absurdity, humor, and magic. Meet Behind Mars is literary fiction at its finest.