The Gilda Stories, by Jewelle Gomez
I’ve never read anything quite like this dignified, almost musically written epic work of Black lesbian vampire fiction. Because Gomez’s protagonist, Gilda, lives for centuries, we reap the benefit of her birds-eye view of humanity’s history as she repeatedly reinvents her persona.
Gilda interacts with humans, but also weaves the threads of family across space and time. She’s part of a set of vampires, rather like a network of Renaissance intellectuals. They meet at dinner parties to talk art or politics, sharing rituals and moments of congruence over the years. Gilda’s intimate relationships unfold at a different pace, too. Her emotions are both more deeply rooted and more distant than those of humans, and complicated by the family/lover duality among the vampire network.
Gomez’s vampires are largely peaceful; they do consume human blood, but they don’t kill. Instead, they provide their victims with pleasant dreams and seemingly-divine inspiration to improve their lives. Some, of course, take a traditionally violent approach, and the novel explores how these differences impact the vampire family dynamics.
For Gilda, death is less an inevitability and more an evolution, prompting us to think about what makes life worth living. Gilda is a rare creature, worth getting to know when you have time to sit by a fire and reflect.
The 214 in 2014 series chronicles every book I read in 2014. Each review contains exactly 214 words, because 2014 words is too long and 2014 characters is too dang short. And yes, this review is backlogged from 2014.
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