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by Kim Parko


Co-winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize
Novel | 5.25″x8″ | 250 pp. | Paperback | July 2016

The Grotesque Child is a story about being and being and being something else. It is about swallowing and regurgitating, conceiving and birthing. It is about orifices and orbs. It is about the viscous, weepy, goopy, mucousy, bloody state of feminine being and trans-being. It is about pain and various healers and torturers, soothers and inflictors. It is about what sleeps and hides in all the nooks and crannies of perceived existence and existence unperceived.

FROM The Grotesque Child

The mother ship could not bring a child to term. She searched the worlds for someone to help her with her problem. In one of the worlds, she found the midwife, Brigit, who was purported to make the most barren wombs fertile. Brigit moved onto the mother ship and stayed in a room on the edge of the mother ship’s goop chamber. The goop chamber was where the mother ship’s children should have spawned. Brigit threw herbs into the goop. She squirted tinctures into the goop. She chanted over the goop with burning incense. She advised the mother ship about exercises, diet and stress reduction, and the mother ship followed her advice diligently. The mother ship had also prayed, nightly, to no-one-in-particular. But all the mother ship’s children came out too early, too small, and barely formed. She had watched them all eject through her birthing hole and float away from her as bloody clumps without the fins to swim.

What kind of mother ship am I? cried the mother ship to Brigit. One that cannot bear children? Who has ever heard of such a travesty?

Brigit tried to comfort the mother ship, but Brigit knew that what the mother ship really needed was new seeds.


Brigit had given her own seeds away long ago.

One night the mother ship asked no-one-in-particular, Can you tell me whether or not I should have children? And if not, could you rename me as something other than the mother ship, and if I should have children, can you help me know what I should do to bear them? And the mother ship tried to interpret no-one-in-particular’s silence.

The mother ship then asked the same question to Brigit, who then took out the colorful array of cards that she always carried with her. Brigit spread the cards on a table and carefully discerned their message.

It’s clear, the midwife said to the mother ship, the cards say that you must find the grotesque child….

The grotesque body is the open, protruding, extended, secreting body, the body of becoming, process and change.  The grotesque body is opposed to the classical body, which is monumental, static, closed and sleek, corresponding to the aspirations of bourgeois individualism; the grotesque body is connected to the rest of the world.


-- Mary Russo

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