cover image Above Us the Milky Way: An Illuminated Alphabet

Above Us the Milky Way: An Illuminated Alphabet

Fowzia Karimi. Deep Vellum, $28 (440p) ISBN 978-1-64605-002-4

Karimi’s inventive, allegorical debut renders a family’s wartime emigration through a polyphonic mix of voices and genres along with evocative color illustrations and photographs. With a newly elected government dropping bombs on civilians, Father finds out he’s on a list to be arrested. Mother visits a soothsayer for guidance and is told they will flee their unnamed country for a new land. Heeding the prophecy, Mother and Father depart with their five daughters and squeeze into a small apartment. The unnamed sisters, along with their mother and father, alternate the narration, giving definition to their new lives through alphabetical chapters (such as H for “Home. What we carried with us no matter how often we moved, who and what we left behind”). After Mother and Father find jobs, the family moves into a house, leaving the sisters to fight among themselves until Mother encourages them to reflect on a spirit world inhabited by relatives who didn’t survive the war, which Karimi alludes to with haunting drawings of demons and beheaded men juxtaposed with peaceful, happy family photos. Karimi’s steady pace and loosely defined setting will allow readers to share in the characters’ dreams and visions of their “first land.” Fans of Lost Children Archive will love this. (Apr.)