This is such deep, rich writing … feels like dreams you forgot as you walk through your day but it’s your life. I mean we never think as deeply as we live and Carol Guess tries to braid those strands and succeeds. I love being in this work.
Aimee Parkison and Carol Guess
A dark yet playful collection of short stories that pushes boundaries and blurs the lines between the real and surreal.
Girl Zoo is an enthralling and sometimes unsettling collection of short stories that examines how women in society are confined by the limitations and expectations of pop culture, politics, advertising, fashion, myth, and romance. In each story, a woman or girl is literally confined or held captive, and we can only watch as they are transformed into objects of terror and desire, plotting their escape from their cultural cages.
Taken as a whole, this experimental speculative fiction invites parallels to social justice movements focused on sexuality and gender, as well as cautionary tales for our precarious political movement. Parkison and Guess offer no solutions to their characters’ captivity. Instead, they challenge their audience to read against the grain of conventional feminist dystopian narratives by inviting them inside the “Girl Zoo” itself.
Take a step inside the zoo and see for yourself. We dare you. Behind the bars, a world of wonder awaits.
Guess and Parkison have written a guidebook for a zoo that needs to be recognized as real. Though Girl Zoo does rely on the word Girl to sell itself, the work is perhaps exempt from the critique that it capitalizes on a trend. For in its pages, text has been lent to an otherwise textless place.
Part dark angry fairytales, part avant-gothic myths, part surreal fever dreams, and always genuinely unique, Girl Zoo is a remarkable collaborative collection of concentrated narraticules about 56 captive women who are the same woman, not the same woman, and not not the same woman. Aimee Parkison and Carol Guess explore the thematics of the commodified and controlled female subject, complicating the problem, nuancing it, metaphorizing it so the reader sees it always anew, yet never offering any easy way out. The rhythms, syntax, vocabulary, and meta-logic feel childlike, yet the content remains relentlessly bloody, violent, somehow naively (and, of course, not naively at all) dangerous to the bone.
Girl Zoo is a breathtaking journey inside the cold hard facts of gender and sexual incarceration. Taking the “woman as object” trope to its logical extreme, these stories stage a break-in and dare the reader to imagine what it would take for women and girls to break out of the very narratives that keep us caged. A triumph of the imaginal in the face of a culture that would see us silenced, dead, and gone. Read these girls, change your life.