Review of Melissa Flores Anderson’s A Body In Motion by Francois Bereaud

by | Apr 1, 2024 | Bending Genres, Blog, News, Reviews

“Here, you are only a body. You have no future, no hopes, no dreams. You are a heart that beats too fast.”

The opening line from “A Body in Motion,” one of the creative non-fiction pieces in Melissa Flores Anderson’s debut chapbook with the same title published by JAKE, hits hard. Here we find Anderson in the hospital awaiting diagnosis for an undefined, possible heart condition. Over the course of the narrative, we see that she gets few answers and less empathy, the medical establishment quick to pass judgment on her body’s size and shape. She writes of her body, “It’s clear what they all think of it. It does not deserve dignity or respect. They believe you have not respected it or it wouldn’t be in its present form.” As she progresses through test after test, we see both her sharp wit and raw emotion.

A Body in Motion has nine stories, all of them with a searing honesty that is a hallmark of Anderson’s writing. It begins with “A Patient Pushes Back,” a story also describing a medical experience. The playful “choose your own adventure” format serves to enhance the seriousness and complexity of the issues the patient faces. After being dismissed by a doctor, the reader is presented with two options:

[Patient accepts the diagnosis and heads to the pharmacy. When the pain recurs off and on for months, she pops Advil … Continue reading on Page 8.]

[Patient is white and pushes doctor to take an x-ray. Continue reading on Page 15.] 

The patient is not white and thus the medical saga continues.

While the focus of the collection is the body, Anderson takes on journeys far beyond the hospital. In “Microfiche,” we meet Frances, a depression era teenager with a hardscrabble life. Anderson’s prose is unsparing as we learn of the ups and many downs of Frances’ journey. “But when he realizes she is pregnant, his face turns cold and he puts her out. She has only one skill, so she goes door to door in Pacific Heights, looking for a wealthy family in need of a live-in maid.” But Frances perseveres and lives to start making a blanket for her latest granddaughter, a certain Melissa, born in Gilroy, California.

In the nine pieces, Anderson moves us fluidly through time, place, and form. “Another Scandinavian” takes us overseas, “Multiverse Melissa” into alternate realities, and “They Don’t Come Back” into the mind of her young son. And I’d be remiss not to mention “By the Numbers,” a remarkable narrative on sexuality and reproduction, written in unique format that I will leave readers the pleasure of discovering.

A Body in Motion has a gorgeous green cover with spring flowers foretelling growth. This startling debut is certainly the start of much more from this versatile author whose other writings include poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and a novel. Regardless of the form, Anderson brings an emotional resonance and fluid storytelling to all of her work. Get a hold of this chapbook and eagerly wait for more.

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