Whether in between college semesters or jobs, on the road to tribal dances or escaping troubled homes, the characters of A Calm & Normal Heart occupy a complicated and often unreliable terrain. Chelsea T. Hicks brings humor, imagination, and a connection to Native experience in a collection that will subvert long-held assumptions for many readers, and inspire hope along the way.
In Chelsea T. Hicks's striking debut collection of stories, A Calm and Normal Heart, characters from the Osage diaspora travel the continent looking for home...In prose that’s sharp and funny by turns, Hicks depicts families fractured by American colonialism, patriarchy, and racism...The diaspora began when Osage chiefs used their third daughters to form alliances with French traders in the 18th century...The divisions between traditional Osage families and off-reservation Osages remain...Hicks’s stories are remarkable for their vivid portrayal of these nuanced family histories and tribal tensions...In strongly crafted coming-of-age stories, young professionals — a model, a poetry professor, and a teacher at an immersion school in the Osage Nation — work to be seen as Native and to understand choices their ancestors made...The collection is a celebration of the language, and the intellectual and emotional journey we make with our 𐓨𐓪͘𐓬𐓯𐓟 — our ancestors — to learn it...In these superbly crafted stories, Hicks uses dry humor and sinuous sentences that wrap around and sting...The strength of the prose hooks us and won’t let go.
In these 12 stories set mostly in California or Oklahoma, Hicks examines the Indigenous diaspora, highlighting not only the roots of her people’s alienation from their tribal homelands, but also the impact that separation continues to have on their daily lives...Sprinkled throughout the collection are words and phrases written in Wazhazhe ie, the Osage language...A Calm & Normal Heart isn’t perfect...Some of the stories end abruptly and seem unfinished...Others are a bit scattered plot-wise and might need a few takes before sticking...Still, Hicks represents a powerful new voice in Indigenous literature — one that hopefully has much more to share with anyone who will listen.
'"Coming home" inspires me to write,' observes Hicks, a member of the Osage Nation, in her acknowledgements...The idea of home also draws Hicks' self-aware but emotionally shutdown women back to places shot through with trauma, whether historical or personal, and also sends them fleeing...Her women are often the daughters of abusive fathers, the wives and girlfriends of men who don’t hit them too often but don’t really love them, either...They wander so slowly toward decisive action that it’s harrowing to watch them save themselves...In 'Superdrunk,' 19-year-old Laney contemplates having an affair with a 30-year-old alcoholic to escape her dad, whose sexual attention has warped her self-worth...But they do save themselves, and it’s a testament to Hicks’ considerable talent that her characters’ senses of dislocation and turmoil are tempered by their feminine power (or 'know-how,' as one character puts it) and connection to cultural traditions... These stories often seem a little odd, the events in them random and chaotic, but that’s very much the point...Hicks’ brilliance is that she doesn’t explain things to White readers and doesn’t translate the Wazhazhe ie (the traditional language of the Osage) sprinkled throughout, as though to pose the question: 'Whose home?'...Dark and darkly comic stories that herald an important new voice in American letters.