All of the stories possess a strong woman’s voice, with a simmering quality: the narrator may be telling the story in a quiet, somewhat subdued way, yet the reader has the sense throughout that these women are ready to scream ... In this powerful debut, Lazarin has written her heart out chronicling the lives of recognizable girls and women as they come of age, find their footing and chart their path through life’s curves, on their own terms. She takes the reader into the crevices and corners of these women’s minds, where you can accompany them on their daydreams as they leave or enter relationships, or just generally try to figure it all out. Their voices stay with you long after the final story.
Danielle Lazarin’s first story collection, Back Talk, is a marvel of its kind, and it’s marvelous precisely in its Munrovian shiftiness, its ability to bend form and turn the story into something that is temporally and emotionally elastic ... That’s the territory that Back Talk most regularly and brilliantly charts: the subjunctive, the conditional, the future, the world of desire and its many complications.
I loathe the word 'polished' in the context of prose. It’s too clinical, implying that the work was dull before the author intentionally spruced it up. So I’d prefer to say that the sentences in these stories are living and seamless, as if Lazarin had run her hand over them until they became smooth and gleaming with the evidence of her touch. Yet they are not without viscera; sublimated rage fills the crevices between them. Lazarin’s style succeeds in part because the stakes for her characters are wide-ranging, because the implications of their actions ripple outward. In Back Talk, the theme of internalized misogyny is, to be quite blunt, terrifying ... joins a growing canon of quietly realist stories that establish women’s experiences as worthy of literary attention. And not just women’s experiences: These stories also explore the exhausting, slow poison of masculine power, the grind of the patriarchy on even the most privileged of women, the subtle ways in which men have trained women to minimize themselves.