Short Stories 366:109 — “Light,” by Lesley Nneka Arimah

coverOh man, this story. I listened to What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky on audio, and as I’ve mentioned, the narrator does a brilliant job inhabiting the emotionality of the characters, and so when you layer that on top of Arimah’s already wonderful writing, the result is basically emotional gut-punching, and “Light” is a fantastic example of what I mean by this. The opening lines alone were enough to give me goosebumps (I’m not going to paraphrase, as I refuse to ruin them, but holy crap, as opening lines go, “Light” is a master class).

Here we meet a man who is raising his daughter more-or-less by himself right now while his wife is overseas earning a degree. He adores his daughter, loves her nature and joyousness and everything about her that seems so very different than himself or his wife: she’s outspoken, joyful, emotionally vibrant, can’t hold a grudge for very long, and their interactions are full of amusing (and heartbreaking) moments where he steps forward and does his (not likely great) level best to handle conversations around such massive milestones as her first period and, y’know, the sex talk and the whole boys thing.

She is fourteen, and over Skype with her mother, things are growing tense. His wife is finding fault in many of what he considers his daughter’s best qualities, and their own married relationship is straining. What follows is the slow and painfully all-too-real clash between who his daughter is, and who the world will accept his daughter to be. And as he is outnumbered and outwilled by said world, it all comes crushing down to a moment and I was just gutted for him, his daughter, and pretty much everything. So, y’know, not a story for a pick-me-up moment, but it’s so beautifully crafted and so damn viscerally emotional that I loved it.


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