With black and brown bodies being felled daily -- from Cleveland to Ferguson, Baltimore to Oakland -- by an assortment of institutional and systemic forces shrugging off protest when they are not stamping it out, the stories of these lives, or ones like them, are the stuff of histories untold by History. John Keene's magnificent collection of stories/novellas reads like an epic novel chronicling the colonized's defiant desire for justice and the slave's multiform attempts at retribution. These lives that matter . . . matter, and in Keene's hand spin the controlling narrative of History differently. The result is (I decided midway through 2016) my favorite fiction of 2015.— Brad J.
Ranging from the 17th century to our current moment, and crossing multiple continents, Counternarratives' stories and novellas draw upon memoirs, newspaper accounts, detective stories, interrogation transcripts, and speculative fiction to create new and strange perspectives on our past and present. An Outtake chronicles an escaped slave's take on liberty and the American Revolution;"The Strange History of Our Lady of the Sorrows" presents a bizarre series of events that unfold in a nineteenth-century Kentucky convent; "The Aeronauts" soars between bustling Philadelphia, still-rustic Washington, and the theater of the U.S. Civil War; Rivers, presents a free Jim meeting up decades later with his former raftmate Huckleberry Finn; and in "Acrobatique," the subject of a famous Edgar Degas painting talks back.