THE YEAR OF THE MONSTER by Tara Stillions Whitehead
A 2023 Aspen Words Literary Prize Nominee, The Year of the Monster explores American culture as commodity and comorbidity. From black holes and animal extinctions to death row trauma porn and the redacted scripts of Hollywood abuses: these sixteen stories subvert traditional notions of justice, challenge vulnerable characters to survive in transgressive spaces. Mixing traditional prose with screenplay and script-hybrid, and certainly not without hope, The Year of the Monster encourages close examination of how American media and our complicity in its marriage of violence and culture perpetuate the human and environmental crises.
Publication Date: September 27, 2022
Praise for Tara Stillions Whitehead
“If you mix a cocktail of Octavia Butler, Mary Robison, and early Jayne Anne Phillips, you might get something approaching Tara Stillions Whitehead’s style. Yet her style is highly original and all her own: shape-shifting and subtle. Her language packs real power. The stories in The Year of the Monster deal with love and unlove, math and physics, deception, truth, and loss – – both personal and cultural. As they navigate life’s obstacles – both spiritual and societal -- her characters show resilience and stamina even when darkness looms. “God and Laundry” is one of the best short stories I’ve read in years. But read them all, every story – from cover to cover. The entire collection sparkles.”
—Larry Fondation, Martyrs and Holymen
“With a deftness and economy of language that calls to mind Etgar Keret, and a tender veil of grit and glamor reminiscent of the late Eve Babitz, Tara Stillions Whitehead’s The Year of the Monster is cinematic, and captivating. In sixteen stories, ranging from a jarring back-and-forth between movie execs, and an intimate, sultry portrayal of a community ripped apart and renewed by a tornado, Stillions Whitehead’s writing demonstrates an unending capacity for humanity, the kind that is necessary right now. It has to be said: The Year of the Monster is officially required reading.”
—Shannon Wolf, Green Card Girl
"The stories in The Year of the Monster are tender, truthful, fiery and finely wrought. Tara Stillions Whitehead has built a collection that leaves little doubt as to her range and mastery as a storyteller. This book could be studied at the level of language alone as her sentences are both elegant and exacting. The people who inhabit these stories have been through some things and there are no easy answers, but let this book serve as a short course in self-acceptance, grit, honesty, and survival. I'm in awe of Whitehead's intelligence and heart, fully on display in these pages. I know she has many more books ahead of her. I can't wait to read every one of them."
—Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works
“Not all black holes are the size of suns or weigh as much as a galaxy” writes Tara Stillions Whitehead in the title story of her potent, hypnotic hybrid collection The Year of The Monster, “Some are small, microscopic, atomic-sized holes.” Freckle-sized black hole on the inner thigh, deleted scene, trauma, alienation, addiction, grief–such invisible centers of gravity litter the landscapes of these stories, drawing their narrators toward transgressions and obliterations, to which they are simultaneously attracted and repelled. But they, and we, are repelled even more forcefully by the casual brutality of Hollywood plotlines, American dreams, the casualties of apocalypse and empire. In language of glitter and grit, paralyzing twilights, and prismatic undertows, Stillions Whitehead resists resolution, expanding the narrative universe, defying both genre and gravity. What survives a black hole? The answer isn’t an end but an action: just turn the page and surrender to the irresistible pull of the next utterly absorbing story.”
—Erin Rodoni, And if the Woods Carry You
“The Year of the Monster by Tara Stillions Whitehead is a must read! Stillions Whitehead writes with beautiful, razor-sharp language about the lingering darkness shadowed by the glitz of Hollywood. Whitehead takes us beyond the spotlights, the gossip, and the fandom to capture photographically and emotionally the people behind the scenes. In this vision of Los Angeles, we see the dreamers, the schemers, and the day workers who are fighting for their lives. The prose is fierce with each line an escalation, and an opportunity to see the world washed in sepia tones given a full-color blush on the big screen. Stillions Whitehead is a star, and this book shines brilliantly due to her ability to put the reader into odd, but meaningful moments of suspension as we're caught up in the lives of these unique characters. These stories will break you into pieces, and then soothe you back together. A Triumph.”
—Tommy Dean, Hollows