The Colour of Milk/Nell Leyshon: Reflections

Monday, January 14, 2013

I spent much of last week in the company of YoungArts writers whose stories and words were so full of the fearless, so unbroken by other people's ideas of what story and language might be, that there was no way in hell I was going to read an ordinary book on the way home. Not that I seek out the ordinary, ever. But sometimes I get stuck with it, and I get rankled through.

So I went to Books & Books while the YoungArtists were listening to people like Joshua Bell and Bill T. Jones and Adrian Grenier and Debbie Allen talk (oh, my), because I knew I could rely on a famous independent to cut the deck of new releases right.  And there, on the front table, I found The Colour of Milk, by Nell Leyshon.  I had never heard of it or her, but because I am forever milking my own metaphors, I was intrigued.  Read the first two lines.  Bought it.  Finished it on the flight home.  Held it to my chest—this riveting, fierce, enveloping, and I-know-you-want-to know-what-it-is-actually-about book, so let me explain that in a line or two.  The Colour of Milk is the story of a girl in the year 1831 who has learned literacy, but at a terrible price.  Milk is her story, her confession.  Milk will break your heart. 

Let me show you how it starts:
this is my book and i am writing it by my own hand.

in this year of lord eighteen hundred and thirty one I am reached the age of fifteen and i am sitting by my window and i can see many things.  i can see birds and they fill the sky with their cries.  i can see the trees and i can see the leaves.

and each leaf has veins which run down it.

and the bark of each tree has cracks.

i am not very tall and my hair is the colour of milk.

my name is mary and i have learned to spell it.  m.a.r.y.  that is how you letter it.


Melissa Sarno said...

Ooh, I am very intrigued, Kephart. And I love what you say about being unbroken by other people's ideas. I often wonder when that break occurs and how to mend it.

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