“Do you remember, Detective, the absolute worst time someone told you to smile?”- Though Your Heart is Breaking, Laurel Hightower.
I do remember, actually. It’s something that seems so trivial- being told to smile, yet I’d wager that most women have been told to do so in some way, and it certainly stuck with me.
I was caring for my grandmother who was bed-ridden and losing her memory, whilst trying to juggle university and help my mum look after my little brother while she worked full-time. It was a very difficult time in my life and it had been a particularly trying day.
I was walking to the shop, minding my own business, when a man passed me and commented, “smile love, it might never happen”, whatever that even means. I remember his stupid, cocky grinning face as he said it and even now it reminds me of how angry it made me. Not only did he tell me to “smile” when I felt like I was sinking under the weight of the world, he also called me “love”. I was not his ’love’.
I looked back with a death glare and he wasn’t even looking back my way. He literally just said it in passing without any regard for how I felt about it. The audacity! What right did he have to tell me how my face should look? What mood to be in? To call me ’love’?
I first came across We Are Wolves from Burial Day, edited by Gemma Amor, Laurel Hightower and Cynthia Pelayo, when it was being shared on Twitter. A horror anthology of poetry and stories about women, written and put together by women, with the proceeds going to survivors of abuse and assault. I immediately bought it and it sat in my Kindle library until I picked it as my first read of 2021 as part of the Ladies of Horror Fiction “LadiesFirst21” challenge, in which the first book you read in January is a book written by a woman/ non-binary femme.
I’m not going to single out any story or poem, despite using a quote from Laurel Hightower’s Though Your Heart is Breaking to tell my own anecdote, because every poem, story, and the very raw and personal foreword by Gemma Amor was phenomenal, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from any of the amazing women who wrote for We Are Wolves.
This anthology of very diverse stories explores the many horrors that women and girls have to bear, sometimes on a day-to-day basis. Some very raw and dark. Child loss, suicide, domestic abuse, crying for help with no one to listen, rape, child abuse, and oppression to name a few. But these women are not just victims, and as you will see from this anthology, they are not to be messed with because when they finally snap and bite back, they bite back hard.
I believe that any woman that reads this will recognise themselves, whether they’ve been through great trauma in their lives or simply told to ’smile’ or ‘cheer up’ by some dick who has no idea what they’re going through. Or maybe they’ll recognise their mother, or grandmother, because some of these stories explore the generational burdens women bear.
We Are Wolves is a definite 5-star read. I felt seen in these pages and I think any woman, even if they’re not a horror fan, will be able to relate in some way to the stories and poetry from the amazing writers in this book.