Woods, Chavisa. “The Albino Album”, Seven Stories Press, 2012.
A Queer Epic
Chavisa Woods brings us “The Albino Album”, a queer epic about a little girl who accidentally feeds her mother to an albino tiger and then grows up to become a domestic terrorist. This is quite a look at domestic life in rural America. Woods paints a big color picture of what adolescence is “in the sticks”— the story of a girl with an unpronounceable name (Mya)who wears a dirty black tutu and combat boots as she travels on her journey of human desire and faces strange and bizarre experiences. Whether she is at the New Orleans (my home town) Mardi Gras, an Illinois cornfield or the Empire State Building, she is who she is, a member of a group of “contemporary misfits of fire-dancers, gutter punks, pseudo Nazis who breed albino animals, horse thieves, and the archangel Gabrielle”.
We do not often get a book that grabs and holds us for over 500 pages and then says “Start over and read me again”. Mya is a feral character who comes of age in rural America. Because she has led a life that is not urban she has to create her own world that is neither here nor there. It is a strange world and while this is probably classified as a Southern gothic novel, it is totally unlike anything you have ever read.
Sarah Schulman says,“A natural and philosophical writer, Woods is propelled by her commitments to language and desire to illuminate ghettos of consciousness: geographic, economic, and emotional.” It is unpredictable as it tells us what it is to grow up Southern, poor and queer while within are raging opposite traits and characteristics. Mya is both radical and conservative, educated and not book worldly, desirous and yet has it all. It is also a very difficult book to describe and is more of an experience than a read that will teach you something and make you a better person (I hope) for having read it.