2 thoughts on ““Painted Grassy Mire” by Nicasio Andres Reed”

  1. The East Asian equivalent to animal-wife stories (selkies, swan maidens) is stories about men who force celestial women to marry them by stealing their clothes; in the Philippines there is a version about a "star maiden" whose wings are stolen (https://www.scribd.com/doc/311328751/Celestial-Maiden-Narratives-of-Southeast-Asia). And "Shimmer" already published a story based on it last year — "The Star Maiden" by Roshani Chokshi.

    Invariably, in animal-wife folktales, the skin is stolen rather than voluntarily given up. That isn’t stated in "Painted Grassy Mire"; but the ending is only "justice" if it’s so. Certainly the nuances in the scene where Tomas gambles away the skin are consistent with it being so.

    Be that as it may, there isn’t much original about this story except its setting. This community of only men who came from the Philippines to settle deep in the Louisiana marshes– and Winnie growing up there as the only child. I’m not clear on why not a single one of the "Manila Men" married someone from the area; usually barriers of language and culture reduce the chance of marrying but not to zero. Anyhow you’d think they’d bitterly envy Tomas but they don’t seem to. But Tomas certainly thinks all the men will be a problem for Winnie when she grows up a bit more. This set-apart status (her age, her gender, her being the only one born in this area who understands the Louisiana marshes better than the others) fuels her rage at the end. No wonder that she would identify with her mother on gender and origin grounds.

    The language attempts to be both lush and colloquial, with the old-country words mixed in. I think it works rather well, setting a distinctive voice and carrying it through almost consistently. The sensuous descriptions of the marsh and the daily work really come to life. But the plot, unfortunately, goes no where unexpected whatsoever, and I don’t think there are particularly deep insights in it. "The Star Maiden" was better, with its focus on a girl’s relationship to her grandmother who claims to be celestial, her doubts about this story’s veracity, and her regrets when she stops believing it.

  2. Didn’t really work for me, alas.

    The language didn’t work for me, and I felt like that’s where the story was investing a lot of its energy – in vivid prose and dripping atmosphere. I didn’t feel like it built up very coherent characters or conflict. It had some imagery I liked a lot – particularly the alligators who couldn’t be bothered to swim up a couple of meters to find prey; that was unique and gruesome – but I didn’t feel like I found anything to latch on to.

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