Objections to Real Stories

“[Christine] Stark has done something in Nickels that deserves our attention. She has not only remembered, but she has resisted the impulse to editorialize. Instead, she has given us the pure voice of the survivor, and in doing that, she compels her readers to experience the world—fragmented, distorted, with fragile islands of comfort and familiarity—through the eyes and limited context of the child.” – Carolyn Gage, a lesbian feminist playwright, performer, director, and activist, from this post on her blog.

I’ve been a proponent of this novel for many years and as such have received push back, mostly from women, along with appreciation for passing it along. As a novel about incest told by a child narrator, Nickels pulls no punches. Sometimes the objection is the language, I’ve heard “I just don’t understand why there’s no punctuation,” or there’s the fear it will be too upsetting. My favorite story about this book is not about evangelizing it however.

I was about three-quarters of the way through the first time I read it. It was the summer it came out, 2011, and I was sitting on a bench near the dandelion fountain in Loring Park near downtown Minneapolis.

As I was reading along, a woman in a high ponytail interrupted her meditation practice to try to convince me to come meditate with her. Nothing against meditation, but I was engrossed in Nickels. Not to mention, I’m not much of a fan of talking to strangers.

So, being a Minnesotan, culturally it’s rude to say directly “Hell no, I’m reading, and not very interested in meditation. Have a great day.”

So, I’m half ignoring her as she talks at me, book firmly in hand. My eyes are firmly on book. Finally, she said: “I’ll give you some space, but here’s my card if you’re interested. Your energy is just so dark.”

Months later when I told Chris that I had been called out for dark energy she laughed.

I hope if this happened now, I’d go the direct route. And seriously, this book is worth reading for SO many reasons, only one of them is that there is always the chance of being called out as having dark energy. ;)

More likely, it’s the kind of book that challenges the clueless and opens space for those who so rarely see their stories reflected in our culture.

Full disclosure, I was proud to present Chris Stark back during the reading series Between, an intergenerational salon, at True Colors Bookstore. In fact, she and Marie Sheppard Williams kicked off the the series.

Chris Stark is an award-winning writer and visual artist whose work has been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies. website


Alison Bergblom Johnson

Show 4 Comments
  • Victor R. Volkman October 22, 2015, 7:51 pm Link Reply

    Thanks for your personal story, Alison. If your energy is dark then I’m afraid that I am the Dark Lord incarnate. Every time we shun the dark, we give up another chunk of our souls.

    Victor R. Volkman, Senior Editor
    Modern History Press

    • Alison Bergblom Johnson November 11, 2015, 10:38 am Link

      Thanks Victor,
      I very much appreciate your comments, and obviously, I very much agree with you.


  • Erik van Mechelen February 15, 2016, 12:00 pm Link Reply

    Hi Alison, thank you for this personal story to accompany the recommendation. I started reading Nickels today thanks to you. Have a thoughtful day :)

    • Alison Bergblom Johnson February 17, 2016, 10:42 am Link

      Thanks Erik, You’ll love Nickels.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.