In stories like “Goodbye Pizza in Los Angeles,” “The Oklahoma Ocean,” and “Moot Point,” iPhone lifestyles co-mingle with ancestral connection, strengthening relationships or pushing people apart, while generational trauma haunts individual paths. Broken partnerships and polyamorous desire signal a fraught era of modern love, even as old ways continue to influence how people assess compatibility. And in “THNXX by Alcatraz,” an indigenous student finds themselves alone on campus for Thanksgiving break, confronting racial differences and the true meaning of the national holiday. Other stories focus on women responding to and transcending familial abuse and patriarchal conditioning. Leaping back in time, “A Fresh Start Ruined” inhabits the life of Florence, an Osage woman attempting to hide her origins while social climbing in midcentury Oklahoma. And in “House of RGB” a woman settles in a home of her own, finally detaching from her pattern of seeking safety through men with the help of a series of ancestral visitations.
Whether in between college semesters or jobs, on the road to tribal dances or hasty weddings, escaping troubled homes, or choosing a new relationship, the characters of A Calm & Normal Heart occupy a complicated and often unreliable terrain. Chelsea T. Hicks brings wry humor, sprawling imagination, and a profound connection to Native experience in a collection that will subvert long-held assumptions for many readers, and inspire hope along the way.