cover image You Animal Machine (The Golden Greek)

You Animal Machine (The Golden Greek)

Eleni Sikelianos. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (126p) ISBN 978-1-56689-360-2

In a follow-up of sorts to The Book of Jon (a hybrid memoir about her father), poet and University of Denver professor Sikelianos introduces readers to her grandmother Melena, a former belly dancer, via quotes, passages of prose and poetry, maps, photos, and newspaper clippings featuring Melena or referring to her life. Sikelianos admits that she doesn’t know much about her grandmother, who had five husbands and three daughters. The book hits its high point during interviews with these daughters (one of whom, Ellen, is the author’s mother). Sikelianos’s writing can be visceral, such as a scene where she describes Melena teaching her to dance. However, her prose can also be frustratingly opaque and meandering. The book’s visuals help when the words aren’t enough; Melena strikes a playful and sharp figure in her leopard print costume. Sikelianos never lets go of the fantasy of the image, but she also explores her grandmother’s underlying grit. Fans of her previous work will be sure to enjoy Sikelianos’s atypical memoir. Illus. (June)