Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby

Unpopular opinion time!

I really wanted to love Shit Cassandra Saw. Stories in Kirby’s debut anthology explore many facets of womanhood and gender disparity – themes that normally tickle my fancy. However, most stories in this collection fell flat for me. ūüė¶ After reading Shit Cassandra Saw That She Didn’t Tell the Trojans Because at That Point Fuck Them Anyway, where the prophetess Cassandra foresees “Trojan will not be synonymous with bravery or failure, betrayal or endurance,” but with a shiny little square packet “carried in every hopeful wallet, pulled out with abashed confidence, slipped over the shaft, rolled to the base” I thought/ hoped Kirby’s deadpan humor will continue throughout to take the edge off of her unapologetic, provocative writing style. However, that wasn’t the case, and it lessened my enjoyment – I just don’t want to be angry for angry’s sake now, although I recognize this speaks more to the state of my current head-space than anything else!

A Few Normal Things That Happen a Lot was my favorite among Kirby’s stories. In it, women don’t take cat-callers, molesters, or would-be rapists lying down – one woman has fangs implanted so she can take a bite off of men who treat her with hostility, while another has a magical remote control that can switch off men who physically or verbally threaten her. Among all these innovative methods, getting bitten by a radioactive cockroach that gives women super strength, or pretending to have been bitten by wearing fake antennas, seems to be the easiest way to keep men in line! It’s a brilliant story that’s mostly comical. But the realization that only a role reversal can get some men to treat women with the respect they deserve makes it sad.

I also enjoyed the two stories that have experimental writing structures. Jerry’s Crab Shack: One Star is written as a Yelp review of a small restaurant in Baltimore, but it is more revealing of the reviewer’s marital life and his pent up anger towards his wife. I liked it, although I didn’t see how it’s thematically connected to the rest of the stories in the collection. How to Retile Your Bathroom in 6 Easy Steps!, written as a wikiHow article, is a story about a woman who is dealing with her husband’s recent betrayal. He has left his family for their sons’ orthodontist, so now she’s left to pick up the pieces on her own. The way she hides her inner turmoil from her children, shielding them from the fallout of their marriage, evoked empathy in me. Nevertheless, this collection as a whole only got 2 stars from me. 

Note: Many thanks to Penguin for sending me a review copy of Shit Cassandra Saw.

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