by Danni Green
This is the short story collection I’ve been waiting for. While reading Homesick I felt like I was being led through a haunted house, but I was never sure if the hidden frights wanted to comfort me or scare me. I was simultaneously disoriented, unsettled, and pleased by this collection of nine stories. Nino Cipri’s collection shows the porous line between attraction and repulsion, between affection and aversion, between familiarity and estrangement. This debut reaches into the uncanny, into the dark, and pulls out a delightful array of stories, many of which center LGBT+ characters as fully formed people not defined by struggle or tragedy, to deliver a collection that is nothing short of remarkable.
“Nino Cipri’s collection shows the porous line between attraction and repulsion, between affection and aversion, between familiarity and estrangement.”
Monsters have always been the embodiment of a fear, often unacknowledged, yet nevertheless fully felt. The Unknown has always been a source of psychological torment and ruination. In Cipri’s imagination monsters are not foreign, malevolent entities, but creatures that want to be accepted as in “A Silly Love Story” and “Let Down, Let Free”; the Unknown is not out there but in places we frequent, lying only a few feet from us. In fact, the Unknown might even end up in the backseat of the car you’re driving as it does “Presque Vu,” or behind the couch of an apartment you’re paid to clean as in “Not an Ocean but the Sea.” Weirdness lives alongside us.
Homesick opens with “There is something haunting Jeremy’s closet,” for the story “A Silly Love Story.” However, it is not your typical story of a haunting. This is a tender, sweet story about the budding relationship between Jeremy, a man, and his bigender partner, Merion. The poltergeist unravels Jeremy’s suit and turns his shirts inside. It does not move beyond the closet and does not answer when Jeremy attempts a conversation with it. It leaves the closet only after Merion knows that Jeremy would react positively when shown Merion’s body. Upon acceptance of whatever he’ll see, the poltergeist comes out of the closet to see Jeremy and Merion kissing. For Cipri, what’s hiding in the closet is not to be feared or shamed — does a better metaphor exist for accepting queerness? I think not.
“In Cipri’s imagination monsters are not foreign, malevolent entities, but creatures that want to be accepted.”
Nino Cipri’s stories explore wide-ranging topics while never becoming heavy-handed or stilted. “Presque Vu” is another story of a haunting. Clay’s haunting is keys in his throat. His neighbor’s is postcards. In this world, each person carries trauma and learns how to continue life with it. In “She Hides Sometimes” a woman’s childhood home slowly disappears as she tries to pack it up as a favor for her father who is with her ailing mother in a nursing home. While the main character grapples with growing up and facing the morality of a parent, Cipri never ceases to spin an enjoyable yarn.
Arguably the best example of Cipri’s talent at writing an equally engaging and thought-provoking story is “The Shape of My Name,” in which they use the gift of time-travel as passed down from mothers to daughters to discuss how gender and sexual marginalized persons have fared through time. Told as a letter from a transgender son to his mother, we see the friction between personal freedom, societal norms, and familial obligations.
I’m not sure what home the characters of Homesick are homesick for. I’m nonetheless glad they’ve found their way into such an incredible short story collection. If you enjoy speculative fiction, horror, being unsettled by your fiction, this is perfect for you.