cover image Happy Stories, Mostly

Happy Stories, Mostly

Norman Erikson Pasaribu, trans. from the Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao. Feminist Press, $16.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-952177-05-7

Poet Pasaribu makes their English-language debut with a remarkable collection of speculative and absurdist fiction incorporating Batak and Christian culture. In an introductory note, Pasaribu riffs on the Indonesian word hampir (almost), and its implications for queer people (“What does it mean to be almost happy? To almost get in, to be almost accepted, to be almost there”). “Ad maiorem dei gloriam” follows an elderly nun who routinely breaks the rules of her convent to wander outside its walls and lands a job as a nanny. In “Welcome to the Department of Unanswered Prayers,” a recently deceased man joins the ranks of other dead people in the drab office referenced by the title, where workplace politics reign supreme. Pasaribu plumbs the depths of a Batak Protestant mother’s guilt in “So What’s Your Name, Sandra?” after she rejects her gay son and he dies by suicide. The free-spirited and worldly “A Young Poet’s Guide to Surviving a Broken Heart,” written in the second person, suggests funny and vital coping mechanisms for a poet’s heartache and loneliness: “Try contacting your friends to see if they’re up for dinner. Not at your place, because your room looks like a Pollock painting”). This is sure to get people talking. Agent: Jayapriya Vasudevan, Jacaranda Literary Agency. (June)