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The Exception to Short Story Collections
By Melissa Schack
I don't normally read short story collections. I might dabble with one story out of an anthology of a favorite author. As Jane Austen once said, “If a book is well written, I always find it too short.” Yet in this case, the stories in Instances of Head-Switching are bite-sized pieces that come out as a satisfying, well-written collection.
The description of Instances of Head Switching drew me in, and I devoured it. Each story is a satisfying dip into the witty and insightful world of the author, Teresa Milbrodt. She explores disabilities, economic insecurity, the temperament of unicorns, and the pros and cons of “head-switching” in daily life.
One of the stories that struck me was “Marbles.” Each marble represented a different emotion and the protagonist used the marbles for depending on the occasion. “Marbles” left me with lingering questions. How can you tell your own emotions from the marbles? Likewise, when we take pills that alter our mental state, how can we tell where the pill ends and we begin? After a time, self emotional regulation becomes a challenge, and we rely on the pills just like the protagonist relies on the marbles.
In “Dreamlords”, the job description reads “ ...all you do is go to work and sleep”, or so we are led to believe. Dreams are scanned and sold from the minds of the employees. The sleep isn’t restful, but it’s good pay for someone trying to support a family. Oftentimes, we surrender our dreams to get by. We end up in jobs that leave us exhausted that suck away the color in our lives. Yet, we continue because we need to survive, but is it really surviving if you’re a hollow shell of yourself?
I admire the author’s stories on difficult subjects. “Costume Control” deals with magical clothing that has the potential to help with disabilities. The thirteen-year-old girl who is blind in one eye refuses to wear her amulet her mother gave her to improve her sight because she functions fine without it. Having low vision and hearing loss myself, my disabilities are part of my identity. The girl doesn’t need to be “fixed” because her mom thinks it will improve her daughter’s life and spare her the discomfort of a disabled child.
I enjoyed reading Instances of Head-Switching. The stories are thought-provoking without being preachy, and the audience is left to draw their own conclusions. Oftentimes, the stories are humorous which balances out the difficult subject matter. I recommend you pick up a copy of Instances of Head-Switching.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.