Often the most powerful elements of fiction are the emotional truths mined from the most difficult experiences. Whether a story is grounded in the most mundane of daily occurrences or rooted in something much more uncanny, it will always feel true in the hands of a storyteller who understands the often unsettling rhythms of the mind and heart.
Milk Blood Heat, the debut collection of fiction from Dantiel W. Moniz, is thoroughly tethered to this kind of emotional truth. Throughout 11 short stories—all set in Florida, all focusing on transformative experiences in the lives of women—Moniz weaves tales that are as profound as they are unnerving, as moving as they are surprising.
Each of the stories in this collection is anchored by Moniz’s gorgeous, precise prose, whether she’s portraying a pair of best friends shaken by tragedy in the title story, a woman seeing spectral images of her lost baby in “Feast” or a girl coming to terms with the power of generational connection in “An Almanac of Bones.” Though they share certain geographic and thematic connections, the tales are quite diverse in their perspectives and casts. What unites them, and what keeps us turning the pages through scenes of tragedy and self-discovery, rebellion and reconciliation, trauma and agency, is the singular voice guiding each character. In nearly every paragraph, Moniz unfurls some new observation that nestles down in your brain and sits, steeping like tea leaves, until each story has formed a cohesive, powerful emotional experience. It’s a magical sensation that reveals astonishing talent.
Milk Blood Heat is a slim but mighty volume of short fiction, one that announces Moniz as a transfixing voice capable of limning often staggering emotional truths.