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Atlas of the Body (Paperback)
2018 Winner of The Chautauqua Janus Prize
Ficton. Growing up in poverty in the American south, Maya yearns to escape and find something better than anything she's known. She is so hungry. It is not food, but everything else, the world...What she needs is not on her street with the one-eyed houses. It is not in the patch of trees she once thought was a forest. It is beyond, somewhere she can't quite imagine. Brought to vivid and visceral life through Nicole Cuffy's aching, lyrical prose, Maya's childhood fascination with anatomy and her adult pursuit of a career in medicine leads her to discover what it means to lose--and what it means to break free. At times raw and at others melodic and tender, ATLAS OF THE BODY is a deeply resonant meditation on hunger and the costs of realizing a dream.
Nicole Cuffy's impressionistic and highly poetic chapbook, ATLAS OF THE BODY, is as lyrical as it is stirring. I'm not sure what delighted me most: the amount of heartbreaking narrative she effectively gets into such a small space, or her rich, evocative prose. A stunning debut.--Helen Schulman
Nicole Cuffy's ATLAS OF THE BODY invents a new form: short fiction with the scope and ambition of a novel comprising vignettes of lyrical prose. Form itself is at question here: the composition of the body, the person it does or does not contain, how much of it is lost in representation. A bildungsroman, the story follows Maya and her beloved Zaire as they roam their impoverished hometown in the American south wild and free, 'where everything in the world is their mother, ' and continues through Maya's adulthood, where she alone must confront the demands of personhood and privilege. All of this unfolds in passages that are alternately compressed and precise, meditative and expansive. Cuffy is an expert conjurer, drawing buried questions from 'smudges on a cave wall': 'from the first shadow to stumble out of black muck, what is it we do to each other?' She finds answers, too. Watch her work.--Justin Sherwood.