Book Club: May 2024 by Hana Zittel

Book Club
By Hana Zittel
Published Issue 125, May 2024

Through the Night Like a Snake: Latin American Horror Stories (2024)

Two Lines Press, of the Center for the Art of Translation, continually seeks out spectacular literary voices, publishing works of translation and exposing English language readers to authors from around the world. In 2020, Two Line Press began their Calico Series, a biannual release celebrating works in translation centered around themes and regions. Thus far, they have compiled dynamic collections of “queer Brazilian literature, Chinese speculative fiction, Arabic poetry about the home and family, and the first collection of Swahili literature published in the United States,” among others.

The ninth and latest collection highlights the unique and haunting horror stories by a chorus of 10 spectacular Latin American authors writing in the genre. In Soroche by Mónica Ojeda, a girls’ trip goes awry as one of the women’s disturbing, humiliating sex tape dominates the group’s thoughts. In Mariana Enríquez’s That Summer in The Dark, two young girls have become obsessed with reading and fantasizing about American serial killers in 1989’s Argentina, where rolling blackouts leave the city hot and frightening. Soon, they find that true darkness was closer than they imagined. In one of the strangest pieces, The Visitor by Julián Isaza, a tiny creature, seemingly from outer space and with a remarkable resemblance to Kermit the Frog, is taken in by an older woman and kept alive, through what she assumes is his feeding on her energy, where he grows stronger and stronger.

An exciting addition to the Calico Series, Through the Night Like a Snake is an excellently compiled work truly achieving the goal of turning the spotlight on these authors and translators. The next collection, Cigarettes Until Tomorrow: Romanian Poetry is expected in September 2024.

Tender by Beth Hetland (2024)

In Beth Hetland’s debut graphic novel, she creates a twisted version of a Sex and the City style, single woman looking to “have it all.” Carolann is desperately looking for love, marriage, a baby, everything she sees her friends and coworkers gloat about on Instagram. Spending her evenings manifesting her future with obsessive marital collages featuring her cubicle neighbor at work, she eventually runs into him on a rainy evening in the elevator. He has an umbrella, she doesn’t, and their meeting leads to the beginnings of Carolann’s dream relationship.

Her obsession with getting married causes stress in the relationship, stress that starts to drive a wedge between the two, but also marks the beginning of Carolann’s escalated self-harm. Anxiety and mental illness that was previously limited to nail-biting and cuticle skin nibbling intensifies to hair removal and fantasies of darker body mutilation. Despite the turmoil, her dreams come true and she is married with a baby on the way, eagerly posting life accomplishments on social media. When the baby is stillborn, Carolann’s controlling behavior and mutilation grow horrifyingly dark, driving her to total collapse.

Tender is a gruesome horror story, but one steeped in the destructive nature of control, debilitating obsession with self-image, and the fragile brink of mental wellbeing. Beth Hetland’s use of color in vivid splashes elevates the gore, with sudden panels of nauseating scenes of mutilation woven between the more mundane coloring used where Carolann works to assimilate with her version of an ideal life. Skill in cinematic storytelling and descriptive art make Tender a grisly story rooted in reality and an exciting debut.  

Hana Zittel is a librarian at the Denver Public Library in addition to being a librarian at the Denver Zine Librarian. She grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and pretty much just likes being outside with her pup when she has some free time, and reading, that might have been assumed though.

Check out Hana’s April Book Club in case you missed it, or head to our Explore section to see more of her past reviews.