Silent Girl


stories by Tricia Dower

Print: 978-0-9808822-0-9
ePUB: 978-1-9267080-6-5
PDF: 978-1-7713303-3-6
192 Pages
May 01, 2008

SKU: N/A Categories: , , Tag:

2009 Longlist Frank O’Connor Short-Story Award

& George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature

Silent Girl takes us into the remarkable and poignant lives of fictional daughters, sisters, friends, lovers, wives, and mothers through eight stories inspired by the plays of Shakespeare. Set in Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, and the United States and informed by the female characters of Pericles, The Taming of the Shrew, Othello, Twelfth Night, The Winter’s Tale, Hamlet, The Tempest, and Coriolanus, Silent Girl’s insightful and unflinching stories portray girls and women dealing with a range of contemporary issues: racism, social isolation, sexual slavery, kidnapping, violence, and family dynamics. Silent Girl explores the experiences of unforgettable characters as they follow trajectories unimagined by Shakespeare, including a young girl who is unwittingly sold to traffickers after losing her mother in the 2004 tsunami in the title story; an ambitious, proud student in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan who finds her dreams taken hostage in Kesh Kumay; a young woman in an interracial marriage who devises a desperate plan to help her tortured husband after his return from Vietnam in Nobody; I Myself; two women and an older man who discover how fluid the boundaries of gender can be in Cocktails With Charles; a woman who constructs a life on remembered pain after her husband disappears with their baby daughter in Deep Dark Waves; a mother and son who wrestle for control of their Alberta farm in Passing Through; an eleven-year-old girl who stumbles across incest and her own emerging sexuality in Not Meant To Know; and a genetically-rare people who struggle with shifting gender politics and an environmentally ravaged world in The Snow People, 30-46 AGM. “Dower’s characters are heartbreakingly valiant, like resistance fighters on occupied ground; through knowledge, wit, defiance and even silence, they gesture toward new, if imperfect, definitions of autonomy. A bold, candid and moving collection.” Dr. Susan Braley, author and retired professor of English literature, liberal studies, and women’s studies. For more information about and details about Silent Girl, see Tricia Dower’s website www.triciadower.com. Discussion guides for each of the stories are also available on the website.

Tricia Dower was a business executive before reinventing herself as a writer in 2002. Having resided in sixteen different towns and cities across North America, she now lives and writes in Victoria, British Columbia. Dower’s short fiction has appeared in Room of One’s Own, The New Quarterly, Hemispheres, Cicada, NEO, Insolent Rudder and Big Muddy. Silent Girl is her first book. Please feel free to visit Tricia Dowers website by clicking here.

3 reviews for Silent Girl

  1. InannaWebmaster

    BiblioBuffet: Writing Worth Reading, Reading Worth Writing About
    http://www.bibliobuffet.com/content/view/919/248/ November 9, 2008

    Silent Girl Speaks Volumes
    reviewed by Andi Miller

    “While I often hear readers say, “I’m not much for short stories. They just seem so unfinished,” I seem to be the exception to the rule. A finely crafted short story can wield emotional power so startling that it becomes necessary to lay the book aside and recover. Some of the greatest short stories, such as William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” Ray Bradbury’s “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,” and Andre Dubus’s “Killings” left me breathless. Whether it was for the craftsmanship or the warped conclusions, they were all fulfilling and haunting. All of the writers manage to paint a fully realized story with a distinctive beginning, middle and end, leaving the reader with a brief, but engrossing reading experience much like one would expect from a novel. Likewise, a number of contemporary short story writers have taken up a place in my heart: Simon Van Booyfor his book, The Secret Lives of People in Love, Miranda July thanks to her No One Belongs Here More Than You, and now Tricia Dower, author of Silent Girl.

    Dower’s collection has a great hook. Each of the stories is based on one of Shakespeare’s female characters. Although Kate, Viola, and Miranda do not make overt appearances, their plights and relationships offer seeds around which Dower molds her stories. As a whole, Silent Girl is about the lives of women—vibrant women, naïve women, troubled women, and headstrong women. The stories are upsetting and hopeful by turns, allowing the reader to experience a satisfying range of emotions along the way. This collection might offer a refreshing option for readers unaccustomed to reading short stories because it is cohesive and well-rounded, and all of the stories relate to each other so well.

    Dower provides an afterword titled “Backstage” which offers some back story of Shakespeare’s characters as well as her inspiration for writing the stories. For the uncertain reader, like myself, who is not well versed in all of the plays it is a helpful addition. For instance, the book’s title story is loosely based on Pericles and in her explanation Dower writes, “The hero’s wife, presumed dead, is buried at sea yet turns up later, alive and untouched by another man, having hidden herself in a temple to the goddess Diana. His daughter, Marina, is kidnapped by pirates and sold to a brothel yet retains her virginity.

    Matsi, the young protagonist of the “Silent Girl” manages to hold onto her virginity, but she is subjected to myriad sexual advances. She is kidnapped after the devastation of the tsunami in Thailand and sold to traffickers, ultimately ending up in the sex trade. While her owner feels she is too young to have sex—her virtue will go to the man with the most cash another day—she faces mental, emotional and physical destruction as she dances for the highest bidder day after day and is fondled and otherwise used as a plaything. One man in particular seems to show more restraint and kindness than the others, spending time talking to the ever-silent Matsi after he buys her for the evening. However, like so many silenced women and young girls, when Matsi finally uses her voice, everything changes. Her fate is unknown, but I could not help but feel that Matsi gained some hold over her future simply by being able to speak.

    Another story that I found oddly hopeful despite the protagonist’s oppression is “Kesh Kumay.” Dower explains: “I had been searching for a modern counterpart to The Taming of the Shrew’s Kate whose abdication to Petruchio at the end of the play always makes me squirm in empathetic humiliation. By lucky accident, I caught Petr Lom’s illuminating and moving documentary The Kidnapped Brides on CBC’s Passionate Eye . . .. I knew I had found my Kate in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.”

    Named for a folk game in which a man riding a horse attempts to catch a woman on horseback and kiss her, the story paints a portrait of the independently-minded Kyal, who is forced into an arranged marriage by her family. While she is allowed to spend two years studying in a university, her father decides she has had enough time to find a husband, and if she cannot, he will find one for her. Much to Kyal’s surprise the man her family chooses, Jyrgal, is reasonably open-minded to her concerns about such a hasty marriage.

    On horseback being pursued by her intended husband in the game for which the story is named, Kyal begins to mull over a fitting compromise. She might put up less of a fight against marrying Jyrgal if allowed to finish her education:

    He looks different in the sun’s heat. Almost attractive. But she’d rather make love to his horse. Ha! She is buoyant with audacity. When there wasn’t the opportunity to decide, Jyrgal seemed as undesirable as any other villager. Now, she sees a tolerable possibility: marriage in exchange for a degree. She will convince Usen to forego any other bride price. He will persuade Jyrgal’s family she’ll be much more valuable property, later, when she commands a good salary and brings them prestige. “Our daughter-in-law, the ambassador.” She’ll need to stay in Bishkek during the school year, so there’s her room and meals to cover as well as tuition. If Jyrgal insists, she will visit him weekends provided he doesn’t disturb her study times. She can suffer his body two nights a week.

    She is not happy about the marriage, but hers is a story of hope even as it concludes in an ambiguous way. I couldn’t help but feel that Kyal might find some compromise with Jyrgal even if her future wasn’t exactly as she had planned.

    Kyal’s predicament in “Kesh Kumay” made her a sympathetic character. Not only her horror at the thought of an arranged marriage but her need to reconcile her family’s traditional values and financial needs with her progressive tendencies made her very relatable. While small-town U.S.A. is a far cry from the wilds of Kyrgyzstan, many women still feel the pull of family in direct opposition to career opportunities that threaten to take them elsewhere. Kyal never found an opportunity to break free of her situation completely, but she did the best she could with an impossible situation—something women do every day in every country around the world. My affection for Kyal inevitably makes me wonder what I’ve missed by not reading The Taming of the Shrew. Since Dower used Kate as her jumping-off point for the story, I must eventually meet her, too.

    Despite the oppressive difficulties standing in the way of each of her heroines, Dower allows all of her characters to find some solution or compromise in their respective situations. While the compromise is often less than ideal—suicide, relocation, sacrifice—it is always a means to an end, either emotionally or physically, for the story’s protagonist; some path to a different kind of existence. Reading about these silenced women, though it may be cliché, was incredibly touching. I was consistently relieved that my life was much less difficult than theirs, but I could find common ground in their stories and appreciate my struggles all the more.

    My biggest concern when I picked up Silent Girl was my lack of knowledge about Shakespeare’s women. I read the standard plays in high school. When I read Romeo and Juliet during my freshman year, it sent me on a significant Shakespeare jag. Subsequently, I read Macbeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Othello. I was unfamiliar with the majority of the women in Silent Girl, however, and in the hands of a lesser author my inexperience might have left me lost, confused, and reaching for meaning. Instead I found that Dower had made Shakespeare’s women her own and painted complete, rounded characters that I cared about deeply. Perhaps the best part about Dower’s writing is that she has given me a push to explore Shakespeare’s work further to find out exactly how she took inspiration from the Bard. Truthfully, a reader need not have any knowledge of Shakespeare to enjoy Dower’s stories, but at a minimum a cursory understanding of his work and the plays in question would enrich the reading experience.

    When it comes to good short story writing, Tricia Dower is among some of the best I have had the pleasure of reading. Her tales are emotional and each one stands apart from the others with its own sense of uniqueness and purpose. Sadly, I seem to have fallen off the short story wagon this year, but Dower’s work reminded me of what I would undoubtedly miss if I continue to ignore the genre. For that I am grateful, and I have every intention of re-reading the book at some point down the line. I would urge anyone who dislikes short stories to dip into this collection for it just might bring them around and open up a rich, new reading experience.

    Andi Miller is a recovering university academic employed by the North Carolina community college system as an English instructor. While she decided to forego a Ph.D. and career as a professor, she fills in all the free time her current position affords her with editing literary publications, reviewing, freelancing, and blogging at Tripping Toward Lucidity: Estella’s Revenge. Her work can be found in the journal, Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS), and Altar magazine as well as online in various venues such as PopMatters.com. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), and writes fiction. Her turn-ons include new books and gelato, while her turn-offs are reality television and washing dishes.

    Published in BiblioBuffet: Writing Worth Reading, Reading Worth Writing About, November 9, 2008.www.bibliobuffet.com Reprinted with permission. Andi Miller’s column, The Finicky Reader, is found at: http://www.bibliobuffet.com/content/blogcategory/60/248.

  2. InannaWebmaster

    Tribute Books

    Book Reviews
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    by Nicole Langan
    “Silent Girl” by Tricia Dower

    “Hamlet’s Gertrude. The Taming of the Shrew’s Katherina. Othello’s Desdemona. The trials and tribulations of Shakespeare’s immortal muses provide the narrative thread that weaves together a collection of eight short stories by Tricia Dower. The timeless nature of the Bard’s female protagonists blends seamlessly into the contemporary feel of Silent Girl.

    It is a modern masterpiece. Inanna Publications and Education, Inc. is to be commended for promoting the work of such a gifted writer. The publisher receives support from the Canada Council for the Arts and The Calgary Foundation for recognizing emerging talent. Dower’s work is certainly deserving of the spotlight.

    Each story has the power to stand alone, yet together their cohesiveness makes an all-encompassing statement on what it’s like to be a woman regardless of age, location or race. Dower’s fluid imagination is masterfully captured in the flawless technique of her prose. The substance of her ideas is expressed in a style that is both page-turning and thought-provoking.

    I have done nothing but in the care of the / Of thee, my dear one, my daughter.
    — Prospero to Miranda in The Tempest

    Not Meant to Know depicts Linda, an 11-year-old girl in 1950s New Jersey who inadvertently learns about the facts of life from the troubling actions of those around her. The promiscuous defiance of her best friend. The unexpected death of a neighborhood recluse. The secret in her father’s coat pocket. The innocence of her childhood is lost over the course of a summer.

    This world to me is like a lasting storm.
    — Marina in Pericles

    “Silent Girl” is the headliner of the collection. The chaos of the 2004 Asian tsunami upends the life of Matsi, the title character. She is a Canadian citizen of Asian heritage vacationing in Thailand when the giant wave carries her mother away. The Wong family promises to bring Matsi home with them to Canada while her father remains to continue the search. However, the Wongs sell Matsi into the illegal sex trade. Her captors believe she is a native Thai citizen, and by remaining silent she withholds her true identity. As she clings to survival in a child prostitution ring in New Orleans, she finds herself in the midst of Hurricane Katrina.

    I see a woman may be made a fool / If she had not the spirit to resist.
    — Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew

    Kesh Kumay means “chasing the kiss.” Dower was inspired to write this story by the documentary The Kidnapped Brides based on the rural tradition in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. The main character Kyal is a university student who returns to her family’s primitive existence. A man is chosen for her to marry, but unwittingly she finds he is of an open-minded nature. Beneath the surface of the male dominated environment, women like her grandmother hold more power than Kyal’s modern sensibilities take into account.

    I, that please some, try all.
    — Time as Chorus in The Winter’s Tale

    Deep Dark Waves turns gender stereotypes about violence on their head. Sona’s husband disappears with the couple’s newborn daughter. As details of their married life emerge, it is revealed that she wanted her husband to physically assault her. Utterly desperate to break out of her emotional numbness, she cares little for the guilt she inflicted on her husband.

    Emilia: O, who hath done this deed?
    Desdemona: Nobody; I myself.
    — Othello

    Nobody; I Myself delves into the topic of interracial marriage. An African-American husband returns home broken from a tour of duty in Vietnam. His Caucasian wife sacrifices everything to help him emerge from the abyss of his post-traumatic stress.

    All that lives must die / Passing through nature to eternity.
    — Gertrude in Hamlet

    Passing Through relates how a son feels betrayed when his mother takes up with his uncle after his father’s death. The conflict upends the fate of the family farm. The anguish of the son is told through the eyes of the mother.

    Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.
    — Olivia to Viola in Twelfth Night

    Cocktails with Charles depicts the relationship of Mira and Angel, two single women who are trying to make ends meet. As a mother of two young boys, Angel is contemplating marrying a man she doesn’t love in order to provide her children with financial stability. Mira implores her friend not to give into such a marriage and tries to convince her that the two of them are better off shifting for themselves.

    I sprang not / more in joy at first hearing he was a man-child / than in first seeing he had proved himself a man
    — Volumnia in Coriolanus

    The Snow People: 30-46 AGM is a futuristic tale of a community of albinos, The Snows, oppressed by a more technologically savvy society, The Rainbows. With man’s destruction of the environment, coastal flooding leaves a sparse amount of land for the remaining population. Hope seems lost until the teenage boy, Akin, receives a prophetic dream that might lead to the salvation of The Snows.

    Overall, this collection is a tour de force from an author employing Shakespearean characters as a springboard for illustrating the condition of modern women.”

    Silent Girl by Tricia Dower is available for $22.95 at Amazon.com and TriciaDower.com.

    Tribute Books celebrates its 6th year in 2010 as a independent publisher for independent writers. I am proud to provide graphic design, quality printing, national distribution and book promotion for writers with an entrepreneurial spirit. Publishing a book takes guts. An author needs to possess the courage to share his or her voice with the world. It is an investment of time, money and energy to transform a rough manuscript into a polished work. I applaud risk takers and strive to provide them with an outlet for their creations. Email Nicole Langan: [email protected]

    Book review reprinted here with permission.

  3. InannaWebmaster

    OldMustyBooks.com Tricia Dower: Silent Girl
    By Rachel Laudiero on Apr 7, 2008 in Featured, Review

    “I used to think the Virginia Slim tag line “We’ve come a long way, Baby!” was empowering and celebrated the achievements women have made in the last hundred years in gaining equality. Women can own property, women can vote; women can be working mothers or stay at home mothers without society telling them which path is better. Women can be CEOs, Presidents of Universities, Scientists, and Jet Engine Mechanics. Women can be anything they want to be.

    On the surface, women have certainly come a long way. What about under the surface? Women are still kidnapped and given away as brides for financial gain. Girls are still sold into the sex slave trade. In some cultures, women are socially isolated just because they are women. There’s still a great deal that happens behind closed doors while society chooses to look the other way. Domestic abuse against women is still very prominent in all areas of the world. Few women are counseled on how to overcome the pattern of abuse in their lives. Sure, through therapy they become aware of this pattern, but are they taught how to overcome it?

    I just read a book that left me wondering, not about what women are still subjected to, but what can we do to help change the old ways of thinking about the role of a woman in different cultures.

    Silent Girl by Tricia Dower is a powerful collection of short stories that takes on us a roller coaster ride into the lives of fictional women inspired by the women in eight Shakespearean plays. Dower explores issues that include: gender politics, inter-racial relationships, forced marriages, incest, domestic violence, and sexual slavery. Each can be found in Othello, The Tempest, Hamlet, Pericles, The Taming of the Shrew, The Winter’s Tale, Coriolanus, and Twelfth Night. Dower took Shakespearean characters and imagined what that character’s modern day story would be like.

    Through research, Dower found real-time examples of these issues in the cultures of twentieth and twenty-first centuries Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, and the United States. Dower’s characters range between prepubescent and grandmotherly. Each of the characters deals with patriarchal value systems, subtle and not so subtle abuse, and social isolation on some level in just about every story.

    Each story in this robust collection is haunting in its own right. Dower has successfully woven a web of thought-provoking stories that cry out for someone…anyone…to help abolish oppression of all classifications. After reading this collection, one can’t help but wonder if women’s lives have really changed at all.

    When you think about the inspiration of this book and the collection of stories encompassing Silent Girl, you can’t help but wonder how far society has really come. Dower did a great job touching on the inner conflicts, as well as the cultural conflicts, of both genders that lead to oppression, abuse, and social isolation. Silent Girl is an interesting study on both sides of the issues touched upon. While there is not much blatant psychological exploration, there is a great deal of opportunity for reflection on the “why” of these social problems. Silent Girl is a good starting point for deftly exploring what it will really take, as a society, to impact the oppression in this world.

    Silent Girl by Tricia Dower (ISBN no. 978-0-9808822-0-9) is scheduled to come out May 2008. I recommend picking up a copy for two reasons. One, its well written and tells some incredible stories. Two, its thought-provoking and does more than just create awareness to issues we may not be exposed to in our own little tiny individual universes.

    Rachel Laudiero publishes OldMustyBooks.com, a website dedicated to reviews and commentary on classic and new literature, and works as a freelance editor and reviewer. She has spent the last several years as managing editor and writer for NYFutureStars.com and OnHutchinsonIsland.com, a local travel directory in Florida where she resides. She is also the Operations Manager for Untraditional Media Publishing Systems, a company which uses the Internet to empower clients to pursue their dreams, to develop their own voice, and to deliver what they are most passionate about to the widest possible audience. In her downtime, she is pursuing a degree in literature and is working on her own novel.

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