(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“Is hunger who you’ll go to bed with tonight because there’ll be no dinner? Or is hunger not a person, not a sentient being who lives in the store with you, sleeps curled up by your feet, but something entirely different? Something like a natural place where you and your family live, a map you trod one foot at a time, a continent of cupboards without hinges, a world where hunger is as common as air. In and out, all the time, she’s with you.”
Or is hunger a sickness that your mother has? Or maybe one you develop when you’ve reached puberty and realize that you’re bigger than your mom? Maybe you just want those dirty old men to stop ogling at you.
The topic of hunger is woven in and out of some of the ten stories in The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters. These essays look at girls coming into womanhood, and touch on so many areas: family relationships, tattoos, piercing, marriage, going fishing and poverty. There is one story about visiting Russia, but I didn’t understand its relevance to the book. .
Most of the stories are told in the second person, sometimes in the third. Our narrator speaks so matter-of-factly, with such lack of emotion, showing that she accepts her life as normal. This is even though the reader may find some incidences abhorrent.
“Roaches in the three-bedroom apartment your mother rents in Iowa. Low-income. Section eight. The man upstairs punishes his wife on the weekends with broom handles and the cord of the telephone. When he becomes psychotic, your mother calls the police. Sometimes the cops come.”
The poetic language is just as stunning as Rinaldi’s illustrations, which vary from rough sketches to colorful portraits. They both complement each other and together they make a complete book.
Even though I think that this brief collection could have been more cohesive, I found most of the stories to be quite thought-provoking. It was definitely worth the time.