I was lucky enough to get to read Nothing Without Us in its nascent stage, which let me offer up the following blurb: Nothing Without Us is a reminder and a declaration both that narratives can—and should—elevate the voices we so rarely get to hear, but not to explain or educate, or to inspire others, or any other of the typical lenses regarding the marginalized from the outside-looking-in, Instead, these stories cross genres from their own point o view, definitely without apology or permission, and get down to business of telling awesome tales with characters who should have been there from the start.
The first story in said collection, “The Bellwoods Golem,” is a perfect example of what I mean here. Myriad Augustine’s protagonist, Hadas, wakes up in pain (as usual, it’s quickly apparent they have chronic pain) and eyes the day ahead with the usual considerations right up until they spot the individual standing in the room with them. It turns out to be a golem, and what follows is a brilliant mix of speculative fiction, character exploration, and social commentary, all done from within. The intersection of marginalizations—Jewish, disabled, queer—are all just present.
The arc of the story, of how this golem came to be, what Hadas discovers having the golem around to help them, and ultimately what they decide to do with the golem is a beautiful little journey, and the initial framing of the story with the semi-explanation of the craftwork of golem-making deftly done. It’s my favourite kind of speculative fiction: our world, with all the frustrations and realities, but with just a tiny dash of something “other” to offer up a slice of hope.