Monster Portraits investigates the monstrous through words and images. It is also an uncanny autobiography: the record of a writer in the realms of the fantastic shot through with memories of a pair of mixed children growing up in the 1980s. Operating under the sign of two–word and image, brother and sister, extraordinary and everyday, black and white–Monster Portraits multiplies, disintegrates, and blends. These notes and sketches claim the monster as a fragmentary vastness: not the sum but the derangement of its parts.
Del Samatar’s drawings conjure beings who drag worlds in their wake. Sofia Samatar responds with allusive, critical, and ecstatic meditations. Together they have created a secret history of the mixed-race child, a guide to the beasts of an unknown mythos, and a dreamer’s iconography.
“A hybrid masterpiece.” ~ Rachel León, Chicago Review of Books
“In French one says of a moving work that it puts la vague à l’âme, a wave on the soul, and if a wave sank sharp salt teeth into one’s heart this phrase might be accurate here.” ~ Amal El-Mohtar, The New York Times
“The series of brief fictions and sketches combine not only to dazzle the imagination but question and bear witness to society’s destructive impulse to catalog and marginalize the Other—in humankind.” ~ William Grabowski, Library Journal (starred review)
“Monster Portraits carries a weighty emotional heft for such a slim volume. It reads easily, but is not easily forgotten. Oblique, enigmatic, often fragmented, yet deeply true; I read this book like skimming a frozen lake, while its claws embedded in my heart.” ~ Desirina Boscovich, Weird Fiction Review
“This slender book plumbs a vertical field. You’ll spend some time here.” ~ Genevieve Valentine, NPR
“Be ready to be beautifully ruined.” ~ Samiya Bashir, author of Field Theories
“This is a wondrous book. It reminded me of all the magical and rupturing books I have carried close to my heart, tucked against my body beneath my coat, since childhood . . . I am so excited to hold this book in my hands, like a ‘red bowl.’ And drink from it or eat from it. Again and again. To this end, I am thinking of buying a new coat that fits tightly and has buttons, so that I can indeed hold it very close, in all weathers and at all times!” ~ Bhanu Kapil, author of Incubation: A Space for Monsters
“Every excrescence is glorious here: devotion and invention cling to each other, philosophy crystallizes from asymmetries, and monsters take the form of lives turned inside out. Otherness, in this imaginary, is the foundation of togetherness, and monsters exist by their defiance of all monstrosities.” ~ Anne Boyer, author of Garments Against Women
“Monster Portraits is a visually and linguistically striking book—a moving and daring duet between an artist and a writer, between a sister and a brother.” ~ Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning
“Archetypes are reborn anew in this book; though their power to impact our lives is contemporary and immediate their sources are as ancient and original as ever. This marriage of fairy tale and postmodern autobiographical text creates a fearful symmetry.” ~ Kazim Ali, author of Silver Road: Essays, Maps & Calligraphies
“Monster Portraits is at once a fantasy entertainment and an exploration of self on the most elemental level, a true marvel of literary art.” ~ Charles Rammelkamp, Gravel