Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction
“The stories in Black Light are grimy and weird, surprising, utterly lush. . . . I loved every moment of this book.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.
Taking us from hot Texas highways to cold family kitchens, from the freedom of pay-by-the-hour motels to the claustrophobia of private school dorms, these stories erupt off the page with a primal howl—sharp-voiced, bitter, and wise. Black Light contains the type of storytelling that resonates somewhere deep, in the well of memory that repudiates nostalgia.
“There is a reckless kind of heat to the tender, broken characters in these stories. . . . Parsons is both unflinching and eloquent in her portrayals of people as they burn and rage.”
—Lauren Kane, The Paris Review
“Parsons’s debut crackles with the frenetic energy of the women who stalk its pages. . . . Parsons’s characters are sharp and uncannily observed, bound up in elastic and electrifying prose. This is a first-rate debut.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Black Light is an unshakable debut, a collection of stories that will grip you under its spell until its closing notes. Compulsively readable, this book is as much a love letter to language as it is to the natural world, the darkened corners of desire, and the absurdities of girlhood. Gutsy, loud, and so very Texas, this one moved me in a tectonic way. You’ll underline every sentence."
—T Kira Madden, Bustle
“In lithe, lyrical prose à la Amy Hempel and Noy Holland, Parsons's short fiction parses the addictions and desires of Texan girls and women, and will break your heart even as it makes you laugh.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“[An] assured debut. . . . Imbued with the expanses of their landscapes, Parson’s dozen tales portray characters navigating unavoidable shifts in the realities of their lives.”
—Leah Strauss, Booklist
“The bad-ass gals in these terrific stories are all attitude, and as funny and appealing in their imperfection and thwarted desire as you’ll find in any fiction out there. Parsons opens and ends stories brilliantly. I just finished this book, and I’m going to read it again right away.”
—Amy Hempel, author of Sing to It
“The very fact that Black Light exists in the world makes everything feel a little less bleak. These stories are funny and poignant and searching, full of taut poetry, not to mention the long pain and sharp joys of living and loving and lusting. In her debut collection, Kimberly King Parsons has put it all on the line, with a hell of a payoff.”
—Sam Lipsyte, author of Hark
“Kimberly King Parsons’s Black Light is savage, celestial, and gorgeous. Texas, dusty and sprawling, houses Parsons’s pining, broken, twangy, and unforgettable characters. The prose shimmers into incantation. In this collection, Parsons dissects the guts of the soul, to show us how awful we all are and how crushingly beautiful.”
—Hannah Lillith Assadi, author of Sonora
“Extraordinary, brutal, filled with wit and menace and charisma, Black Light stakes out a Texas by turns drably oppressive and shot through with ultra-HD colors. Contemptuous and empathetic, ill-mannered and sublime, Black Light is my favorite collection in years.”
—Mark Doten, author of Trump Sky Alpha
“Black Light announces a remarkable talent. Parsons sees right into the maw of the flawed humans that live in her worlds, which is to say, she spies the humanity in all of us. These stories are at turns heartbreaking and hilarious; keen and imaginative. Plus, she’s a prime prose stylist, one whose language never dips below flat-out amazing.”
—Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math
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***NOVEMBER 2019 UPDATE*** This delightful book has unseated the presumptive champion to become my annual six-stars-of-five bestestest read of the year!AND it was a 2019 NBA longlister...AND it's in t...
EXCERPT: I'm usually nervous in cars. Whether I'm driving or riding, I can't seem to forget that I'm in a little shell,hurtling along. I want a death that comes from the inside, something I won't have...
I think I will be a dissenting voice for these stories. I found them to be repetitive in ways that were unpleasant.So much fatphobia, either from a self-directed perspective or other-directed, but all...
I read this book for Lambda Literary, where my full review can be found.Caustic and biting, Kimberly King Parsons’ debut collection Black Light takes an unflinching look at the manifold ways girls a...
National Book Award Longlist 2019. A black light makes visible that which is invisible in natural light. What is more, it causes facial features to look ugly—even grotesque. Parsons focuses her blac...
Is Friday Night Lights meets Ottessa Moshfegh a thing? Because this collection is kind of like that: unafraid of being dark or weird or gross, and set within the wandering, vacant emptiness of Texas, ...
Like if a sucker punch were a pleasant surprise somehow. "Foxes" was particularly vicious (guitar shred), but I didn't want any of these stories to end, which is quite a thing to say about a debut col...
This short story collection was an interesting mix of the dark and gritty with the mundane. These stories center around the lives of the poor and the marginalized. The collection overall was a bit une...
This book is the best. A fever dream with grip. No one writes a sentence like Kimberly King Parsons....
A debut that entertains, stuns, and dazzles at every risk-taking turn. This is short story as art and it's mind-boggling that the two best stories, Glow Hunter (a sensory trip) and Starlite (a seedy h...