cover image I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself

Marisa Crane. Catapult, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64622-129-5

A new widow raises her child in a surveillance state where wrongdoers are given an extra shadow for every transgression in Crane’s astonishing and deeply felt debut. When Kris’s wife, Beau, dies in childbirth, their newborn child, known only as “the kid” until the very end, is immediately given a second shadow by the Department of Balance for causing Beau’s death. This makes the kid a Shadester—a second-class citizen who will be ostracized and surveilled for life, presumed to have behavioral problems by teachers, and overtaxed as an adult. Kris, who has grappled for years with shame over her own second shadow, must now navigate her fears about single parenthood and come to terms with her overwhelming grief. A poetic sensibility shines through Kris’s narration, which is all directed toward Beau (“I want to swallow the moment and keep it in my burning belly, but I have my wrong mouth on—I am wearing the mouth that speaks without thinking”). Crane brings their impressive imagination to the speculative details, which convey a great deal of thoughtfulness about how the second shadows affect people differently depending on their intersecting identities. They also treat their diverse cast with complexity and compassion. As the kid grows from infancy to grade school age and deals with bullies at school, Crane poignantly shows how public shaming often has more to do with cruelty and control than justice, and the rebellious, headstrong, and searching child protagonist emerges as one to remember. The author’s profound maturity shines as they interrogate the creation of family, criminalization, and queer resistance. Readers will be moved and electrified. (Jan.)