Hannah Holborn's autograph (Fierce: Stories and a Novella)

Hannah Holborn wowed me the first time I read her fiction.  Her short story, "Without Strings," included in the superb 2008 anthology, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, edited by the novelist Suzanne Kamata, blew me away it hit so close to home.

It was so painfully raw and honest, I was convinced that Holborn had to have had her own child with special needs in order to have written such a story so real, so true.  In the story, Alice is sharing with her mother the devastating news of her baby daughter's diagnosis: Angelman's.  Parents of typical children without chromosomal abnormalities cannot imagine* how crushing it is upon hearing the news that their child has a severely debilitating developmental disorder, and yet Hannah Holborn, who is not the parent of a special needs child, not only imagined it but nailed it.  After Alice receives little sympathy from her look-on-the-"upside"-of-life-mother and her mother's latest beau (unless the latest beau's "boo-hoo" can be construed as signifying genuine sympathy), she walks home and broods:

"...my neighbors slept with confidence inside their heavily mortgaged homes knowing that their children would be icons of socially conscious fashion, win athletic awards, read before kindergarten, earn honors, be beautiful or handsome or both.  When grown they would graduate with multiple degrees and then move to the United States because the wages are higher. They would marry well and buy nicer homes than these. They would make their parents proud.

They would avoid my daughter like the plague."

Knocks the wind out of you, a passage like that.

When Fierce arrived late in 2008 (in Canada only; it was released in the States in 2009), Hannah, who had read my positive review of Love You to Pieces and later contacted me through a social media website devoted to bibliophiles to say thanks, she was kind enough -- and quite generous too -- to send me, all the way from Canada, an autographed copy of her first book of fiction.  I think it's safe to say I prize her signature and inscription more than others I've collected over the years.  And autographed copy or not, Fierce is a stellar collection of short stories and one novella that sensitive readers and reviewers will savor, as her stories have that knack of staying with you as only the most powerful and impacting fictions can and do.

*I can imagine only because I was the parent of a special needs child (Down syndrome) for fifteen-plus years (August 11, 1998 to December 27, 2013).

more autographs