Swanson’s unflinching, finely detailed attention to wounds and to damage—both environmental and personal—is unsettling and often uncomfortable. Marietta instructs Lena that the World Below “should reflect beauty and ugliness alike…. Bring me things that are broken.” The voluminous examples of these broken things—wounded birds, shriveled saplings, injured insects, dying mosses, mutilated women—and the lucid, steady gaze within which Swanson holds them have the cumulative effect of rebalancing the idea of worth, of reprogramming the notion of value and the concept of healing.
Marietta’s disappearance is like an open wound for Lena. By allowing Lena’s meticulous pursuit of the truth to transcend the physical and mental barriers imposed on her, Swanson creates beautiful possibilities of real healing unconstrained by the premise of “reality.” As Lena also discovers, it takes work to get there: a suspension of expectations and of disbelief, an acceptance of uncertainty, an openness to following an unconventional path through pain. But these are certainly worth the revelations they give rise to.Submerged Revelations in Things We Found When the Water Went Down – Dana Dunham, Chicago Review of Books
The individual iterations of ephemera, those sensory details that I was talking about being obsessed with, those are also some of the most impactful for folks who’ve experienced trauma or violence. Those can be triggers, and they can also be opportunities for safety and healing, which is what people call glimmers. It’s also this dream of a world that’s very much in alignment with transformative justice. This question of can we actually change systems to become more humane, to become more expansive, or do we have to burn something down and build it elsewhere? I haven’t entirely come to a conclusion about that in my work or my daily life, but I think this book is asking that question. And in terms of spaces for queerness and environmental wholeness, holistic well-being and wellness, decolonizing, dismantling systems of oppression, those are all parts of the World Below too.Debut Authors to Watch: Things We Found When the Water Went Down is a Love Song to Survivors – Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
Interview with Madison Poet Laureate Angie Trudell Vasquez on WORT 89.9FM