You Make Yourself Another by Lucy Hannah Ryan
Our friends at Half Mystic Press were kind to send an advanced copy of the book our way, and our staff creative Ari very graciously presents their review - which is completely uninfluenced by factors outside of the author's offerings in the book - here.
You Make Yourself Another is the first short-story collection of author Lucy Hannah Ryan and soon to be published by the half MYSTIC press. After a lifetime of publishing their stories in an array of lit magazines: from Arachne Press Solstice Shorts 2021 to Corvid Queen there is finally a book that brings all their tales together.
Who are you, really? That is the question at the heart of Lucy Hannah Ryan’s short story collection You Make Yourself Another, a visceral, tender, and elusive meditation on transformation in its many guises. Named for an insult hurled at Hamlet’s Ophelia, You Make Yourself Another blurs genre and gender lines to illuminate a state of sharp, queer flux. From a girl whose illness has her slipping between the veil of life and death to a grieving model on the path of self-destruction, from the mystery behind a teenager’s disappearance to a woman’s journey through bodily autonomy via strange metamorphosis, this collection haunts and hollows in equal measure.
You Make Yourself Another is an exploration of identity through a contemporary sprinkle with magic genre. Throughout the anthology we encounter a different array of characters that are building up their personalities. Sometimes this might be fabricated like in the last three short stories, and sometimes is about uncovering parts of it, like in the couple at the beginning.
Girlhood, Womanhood and Femininity is likewise unraveled throughout the pages. From how a girl fights to know what is happening to her body in Maybe When It’s Burning, to a woman’s complex relationship with the male-gaze as she battles through the dating scene on In Bloom. Every story is femme but each one in a different shade.
Ryan’s prose blooms with a unique voice, making you see mundane things in a manner you have never pondered. However it is still flexible enough to adapt to each story's distinct characters and themes.
Maybe When It's Burning
“Was that just girlhood? Trying to explain away our bodies like we only passively inhabited them?”
The perfect introduction not just to the anthology but to Ryan’s body of work. Maybe When It’s burning explores childhood (platonic) crushes, illness, magic and what it is to be a teenage girl.
When We Were Just A Trick of The Light
“Unless you've suddenly become a cell mutation you don't get to claim my life"
An enchantment gone wrong lets a nonbinary witch meet again their deceased twin brother and grapple with survivors' guilt.
Notes: This story is beautiful, I just wish it didn’t take that long to take off.
“Maybe today I chose the dark, because I'm sick of hurting. But tomorrow I'd choose my mum's arms and a bowl of her lamb stew. I choose to not be dicked around by a universe that can't get a grip on me. I want something I can hold on to."
An immortal child that has to suffer through death every time the moon calls, finally gets a sense of what is home, and why it is earth.
Notes: I wish that the conversations between the moon and the protagonist were a bit more polished.
In the Absence of Moonlight
“None of them would expect something that looked like her to survive out on its own.”
What does it mean to love romantically when it might put you and your love in danger? Two lovers survive family through a secret language and death.
Notes: This story needs to be longer.
“The cameras swallow her grief and call it a dying act of defiance and Rowan lets them take it from her. She doesn't want this to belong to her, anyway.”
How does it feel to be hollowed out? A story about the relationship between a model and a designer, not romantic, not platonic but something else that is equally as painful.
Do you have any idea what it’s like to be so good at becoming something else that a person would make an ungodly shrine to it?
A dancer deals with depersonalization as something or someone else takes her place.
Notes: The conflict of the story isn’t exactly clear, and I still don’t understand who takes her place. But maybe that’s part of it.
“Know that no matter what happens to you in life, you are supported and grounded to the earth beneath you.”
A woman struggles with being invisible even as people see her, flying away and staying grounded.
Ari Ochoa Petzold (they/xe), is a writer in process that likes dancing to old music and history, one of their goals in mind is to bring to the world stories about the human condition told through the intersectionality of being queer and latine.