Paperback of the book lying on a pillow. The cover is black with an illustration of a woman sketched in black with hues of yellows and oranges on her skin and in the background

#CaitTacklesTBRPile: Segovia Stories, by Bernadette Gabay Dyer

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but I had already told the author that I really wanted to review it!

Segovia Stories is a collection of short fiction whose style spans from slice-of-life tellings to speculative fiction. These tales are also woven with many cultural nuances and characters who are engaging, complex, and realistically imperfect. Gabay Dyer’s storytelling just makes one feel, and the echo of many stories reverberated for me long after reading them.

Paperback of the book lying on a pillow. The cover is black with an illustration of a woman sketched in black with hues of yellows and oranges on her skin and in the background

There are perspectives in these stories based on traditions and beliefs from where characters were raised, and it was fascinating for me to watch them come into contact with slushy, maple-leafy Canadian life. (This is where I point out that one of the titles is brilliantly called “Ackee Night in Canada.”) Themes throughout this collection can be mystical, moral, pragmatic, and touching. I also happen to be really fond of food in fiction and loved how Gabay Dyer turns dishes and drinks into essential elements of the storytelling.

In “Soup Morning,” a reclusive woman braves the winter elements only to discover the local shop is closed. Fortunately, a West Indian neighbour invites her inside, and our protagonist is drawn into memories simply by the aroma and taste of the soup in the kitchen. I mean, I love soup and think it’s magical and comforting, so I saw the appeal. But it was interesting how it played such a role to unlock feelings. Gabay Dyer does this a lot in Segovia Stories—provokes one to realize the importance of the little details that shape people’s lives.

Like how in “Intervention,” a futurism story that takes place in 3089, the major concern is about a drug released into the atmosphere, supposedly to create racial harmony, but instead, it nullifies culture and identity. And in the midst of it, the protagonist seeks to rescue an ackee plant that is essential to certain traditional recipes. Food and culture are intertwined.

But of course, this collection is not all about food. In “Close the Blue Door” we find two tellings of the same story—one is based on legendary myths and the other with stark reality. And I found myself deeply moved by the end of it because I wanted to remain in the myth.

One of the biggest surprises for me, though, was after reading much shorter pieces, I suddenly was met with what seemed like a novelette. In “Long Night Until Morning,” a wealthy father in San Miguel loses his son and his own father within days, only to discover a former servant is pregnant with his late son’s child. Upon discovering that she plans to leave Ecuador for Canada, he disguises himself for the potentially dangerous journey to cross borders in order to watch over her. I didn’t expect to find a longer work, but I immediately cared about the characters.

Another longer work, Roberta on the Beach, was my favourite. It’s told in parts, featuring siblings of a Jamaican-Scottish family who grew up in poverty and how this affected their lives as they navigated into adulthood. (I couldn’t wait to get to the next sibling’s story and got grumpy when I realized I needed to go to sleep.) By the end, I had grown so attached to the characters that I hoped this piece would turn into an entire novel. I wanted to learn even more about this family, going back and forward through the generations! 

As I finished the collection, I felt that while I enjoyed the shorter pieces in their vignette, almost episodic style, I found the longer works were where Gabay Dyer’s storytelling really took flight. Or maybe I had just become greedy for longer tales by this author.

Last year, I had the pleasure, along with co-editor Talia C. Johnson, to include a story by Bernadette Gabay Dyer (“Fishing in Martian Waters”) in the Nothing Without Us Too anthology. It was my first introduction to her work. And now after reading Segovia Stories, I concur with the high praise it received. If you enjoy story collections, do consider adding it to your TBR pile.

Segovia Stories by Bernadette Gabay Dyer is now available from Mosaic Press.

A greyscale close-up of me, standing in front of a blank background. I am a white woman with short silver hair cropped closely on the sides. I am wearing dark metallic rimmed glasses with rhinestones on the side. I’m wearing silver hook earrings with flat beads and a plaid shirt.

Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’CosmThe Stealth Lovers, and the forthcoming Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the multi-genre disability fiction anthologies Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too. 

Featured photo is of the paperback of Segovia Stories, taken by Cait Gordon

Obi-Wan Kenobi is the Mental Health Representation I Really Need Right Now

Note: Kinda sorta spoilery.

So, I am “I was a child when A New Hope came out” years old. I have been a massive Star Wars fan all of my life and a proudly self-labelled Star Wars Nerd. As an adult, I manage complex post traumatic syndrome (cPTSD), anxiety, and depression. My mental illness has been pushed to the outer rim during this pandemic too.

How do my geekness and my mental health make an unexpected pairing right now? Well, episodes one and two of Obi-Wan Kenobi dropped last week, and I could not have predicted their content for anything. Especially the state of Obi-Wan himself. I deeply felt the isolation and monotony his life had become, the rejection, the persecution, and the alienation from anything to do with his previous life when the Jedi council was alive. He was alone, he had night terrors, he felt hopeless and not like the person he used to be. He basically erased himself from himself. It wasn’t that he was merely hiding undercover to watch over ten-year-old Luke. He truly believed he was powerless.

Holy crap, I thought. Obi-Wan is depressed! He’s got PTSD!

I mean, of course he does! He’s been through the works, lost people he loved, and assumed he killed Anakin, his best friend who had been like a brother to him.

I was blown away by this writing choice because far too often, characters in SFF who seem larger than life tend to shake things off like Wile E. Coyote does an anvil to the skull. Obi-Wan’s mental health matters here, really matters to the story. It also matters to the viewers, folks who might be dealing with their own mental health, such as people who have had to remain isolated or whose lives have changed dramatically because of the ongoing pandemic. But even for reasons other than the pandemic, mental health issues exist. And I bet dollars to donuts that young fans who are depressed could think, “Hey, even a Jedi can feel the way I do. I’m not a freak!” It can be so powerful to see yourself in your fiction heroes. Sometimes transformative!

Now, I can write an entire blog on WEE LEIA!!! But it’s also interesting to me how she might be set up as a catalyst in Obi-Wan’s life. Maybe to provoke self-reflection. Maybe for him to remember who he is. In my life, I have always had those people run interference against my negative self-perception, and many times, they have no idea they’re meeting a need in me. Sometimes a person can randomly express how they view you, and it prompts you to remember yourself.

We know where Obi-Wan gets to in A New Hope, but I feel it’s really important for us to see him in a bad place mentally. It’s real, even in a galaxy far, far away.

I must say a great big thank you to the writers for taking this direction and to Ewan McGregor, who portrays this state of being so well, even wordlessly. It really came across to this space opera author who always wants to see more disability and mental health rep in SFF.

Seriously. Thank you.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is currently streaming weekly on Disney+. Content note: Episode One’s intro shows a flashback where children padawans and their teacher are running from Stormtroopers shooting at them.

ID: Headshot. Aqua background. Cait Gordon is a white woman with short silver hair and who is wearing teal metal-rimmed glasses and a navy blue V-neck T-Shirt

Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, The Stealth Loversand Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Her short stories appear in Alice Unbound: Beyond WonderlandWe Shall Be Monsters, Space Opera Libretti, and Stargazers: Microtales from the Cosmos. Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too anthologies, whose authors and protagonists are disabled, d/Deaf, Blind or visually impaired, neurodivergent, Spoonie, and/or they manage mental illness.