Kiss Me Someone

In Karen Shepard's short story collection Kiss Me Someone, characters stabilize and combust, rage and love, display gentility and brutality--revealing the dichotomies of identity.

Focusing on young women and individuals of mixed race, Shepard's stories delve into the lives of those who feel most vulnerable and analyze their unconscious, impassioned acts of strength. Through time, geographic space and cultural identity, Shepard's heroines echo each other's frustrations and desires as they proclaim the importance of individual experience. The protagonist of "Jerks" summarizes this paradoxical connection best when she acknowledges that being alone "may have been the perfect punishment, the ultimate self-indulgence, the thing I loved the most."

In the tradition of Susan Minot and Rebecca Lee, Shepard's writing is breathtaking in its ability to capture minor but revelatory personal insights. With her crisp prose and sharp observations, she views characters with devastating and unflinching clarity. And while the conflicts can sometimes seem extreme, Shepard deftly avoids ever delving into melodrama. In fact, throughout the collection, the simple act of recognizing and declaring one's feelings serves as both castigation and absolution, an act of violence and grace. Most empowering, there is a certain challenge in Shepard's assertion of the individual, exposed woman, best captured by the mantra of her second-person perspective in "Popular Girls": "We're loved. We're protected. Do with us what you dare. Do with us what you can." --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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