Jaimee Wriston Colbert
Jaimee Wriston Colbert is the author of four books: the novel Shark Girls, a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the USA Book News, Best Books of 2010 Awards; Dream Lives of Butterflies, awarded the gold medal in the Independent Publisher Awards; Climbing the God Tree, winner of the Willa Cather Fiction Prize, and Sex, Salvation, and the Automobile, winner of the Zephyr Prize. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals, including TriQuarterly, New Letters and Prairie Schooner, and broadcast on Selected Shorts. She is Professor of Creative Writing at SUNY, Binghamton University.
Shark Girls is narrated by the older sister of a victim of a shark attack (inspired by a real historical shark attack) that takes place off the coast of Oahu, in 1959. The child loses her leg, a lot of blood, and never speaks again. She stays in her bed for eighteen years then suddenly disappears. Over time rumors begin that she has transformed into the mythological shark-man/shark-woman from Hawaiian lore, and that she has healing powers.
The narrator, Susan Catherine (Scat), at the beginning of the novel is a statuesque middle-aged “disaster photographer” and a reformed alcoholic, living with a retired rock star who entices her to sleep with other men then tell him about it. Along with these stories she tells her own story, to try and piece together what happened after the attack that fractured her family leaving emotional wreckage in its wake.
Because Scat’s coming of age was in the sixties, much of my playlist has songs from this era, a number of them specific to her experimentation with drugs that foreshadows her years of darkness as an alcoholic. (A couple of these songs are also mentioned in Scat’s narration.)
The book is filled with emotionally metaphorical colors, and the songs explore some of these, yellow, white, and blue. The novel’s darker theme follows a descent into mental illness and a death of the soul, so the music speaks to these as well. The playlist (like Shark Girls!) ends with transformation, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s hauntingly beautiful song, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”