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Black Cranes

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Member Reviews

This was a gorgeous, gripping, and chilling collection of stories from and about women in the Asian diaspora. What I love about collections like these is discovering some absolutely incredible writers I hadn't read from.

Every single story was insightful and interesting, but if I had to choose a favorite it would be Little Worm by Geneve Flynn.

Highly recommend!!

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"Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women" is a short-story anthology collection written by a variety of women writers of Asian heritage. The stories fight stereotypes about Asian women, that portray them as quiet, obedient, and submissive.

The anthology consists of fourteen stories across a mix of genres, like horror, folklore, science-fiction, and fantasy. My favorite stories from the collection were:

"Kapre: A Love Story", by Rin Chupeco, about mythological creatures from the Phillipines;
"A Pet is for Life" and "Little Worm", both by Geneve Flynn; "A Pet is for Life" about the slit-mouthed woman (kuchisake-onna from the Japanese urban legend; "Little Worm" about a woman returning to her aging mother's home to take care of her because of deteriorating health;
"Phoenix Claws", by Lee Murray, about a woman bringing her white boyfriend to meet her family over a traditional Asian meal and,
"The Ninth Tale", by Rena Mason, about the Japanese fox spirit.

All fourteen stories were unique and interesting. The cover art was also very alluring. This was my first time reading all of these authors, and I am definitely interested in checking out other stories or books by them, especially by Geneve Flynn, Lee Murray, and Rin Chupeco.

Thank you to RDS Publishing, Raw Dog Screaming Press, and NetGalley for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. "Black Cranes" has been available since March 2023.

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I continue on my short stories/anthology reviews for this year. This book has both a foreword and an afterword that adds some context to the content and the idea behind the collection. It is good to read them both to see if the overall planned effect was achieved.

The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter by Elaine Cuyegkeng
This was a good start to the series. Part horror, part sci-fi, this relates to genetic modification and what access and ease of it could morph people into. (4 stars)

Kapre : A Love Story by Rin Chupeco
A monster spares the life of a baby, and their fates are intertwined for a long time to come. I did not get the point of it, but it was sad and well written nonetheless. (3 stars)

A Pet is for Life by Geneve Flynn
This story takes an unexpected turn when the person observing becomes the narrator. I had to read the last few paragraphs a few times to ensure that I did not misunderstand anything! (3 stars)

Phoenix Claws by Lee Murray
The pressure of trying not to conform while wanting to be part of your ethnic culture makes for a very complex life. Throw in some supernatural reactions to whatever is in the subconscious – I shuddered when reading it. (4 stars)

Of Hunger and Fury by Grace Chan
A woman is visiting her parents with her spouse and there is something in the air in her hometown which has a spooky underlying plot which I did not actually understand by the time the end rolled around (2 stars)

Skin Dowdy by Angela Yuriko Smith
Sci-fi with physical modifications as its theme. An insecure partner keeps urging the man in her life to ‘upgrade’ her till the inevitable occurs. Although the story was reminiscent of ones I have read before, there was something about the simplicity of the narrative in this not-so-future world that made me think. (4 stars)

Truth is Order and Order is Truth by Nadi Bulkin
Creatures and the war they are all part of. The history of the leader would have had more of an impact on someone like me if this story was part of a bigger tale. (3 stars)

Rites of passage by Gabriela Lee
This was a little more complicated than I anticipated. Given the standard progression of the plot, the story takes a dark turn about daughters and pregnancies, which was just not to my taste (2 stars)

The Ninth Tale by Rena Mason
An eight-tailed fox gains her ninth tail due to her involvement with humans. She learns more about her assessments of people than she originally wanted to. It has multiple twists making the ending entertaining in its own way. (4 stars)

Vanilla Rice by Angela Yuriko Smith
The choices parents make for their children are dependent on what they have experienced in life. That feeling is probably universal and this is just one of those tragic choices which does not pan out the way the parent hopes. Also a sci-fi (4 stars)

Fury by Christina Sng
A sci-fi twist about the people in the know when a virus starts to decimate multiple planets and turn people into zombies. The ending was surprising, but given the buildup, I hoped for more (3 stars)

The mark by Grace Chan
A woman feels like her husband has been replaced by a creature which is almost a robot and it is painful to watch her assess and reassess her life thus far. (3 stars)

Frangipani Wishes by Lee Murray
I did not enjoy this story much, mostly because of the content and not the style of delivery. It was so sad and put our protagonist is such situations that every time she claws her way out of one issue, there is another just waiting around the corner. (3 stars)

Little Worm by Geneve Flynn
This story was a little graphic in its presentation, but it does put the idea of motherhood and the concept of sacrifice into perspective. (3 stars)

This selection (with the conversational starters they are) would work better for people who like reading about the battle many women go through on a day-to-day basis than actual happy endings. I knew what it might be like going in, but I keep wanting to try something different to see how much my tastes have changed in the durations between reads. It did not appeal to me as it definitely will to a much wider audience.

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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All of these stories are chilling and thought provoking. They also educated me on some culture that I’m unfamiliar with and opened my eyes to other horrors. Each story was unique and gripping and nightmare inducing. So, so happy this was written.

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I rarely read short stories these days so it takes a special one to grab my attention. I love the strong female Asian characters in so many of the stories. My favourite stories were Vanilla Rice (where a woman attempts to genetically alter the physical appearance of her unborn child) and Phoenix Claw (where a women brings her boyfriend to dinner at a Japanese restaurant to meet her family). The stories were unique but also worked cohesively as a collection. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys speculative story collections

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I struggle to get through short stories (ADHD), but I really wanted to read this so: apologies for being late! I showed up for Chupeco and Katsu but came away with an appreciation for a whole new crew. My favorite stories were Phoenix Claws, and Little Worm. I've been recommending this to readers even before I finished it; I knew after just the first few stories that this collection would be worth the time. Thank you!

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I enjoyed this collection of short horror stories. The women in these stories give you glimpses of what is was like to say "no" to filial obligations, society's view of beauty, marriage expectations and a woman's role in the family. My favourite stories in the collection are Phoenix Claws, The Ninth Tale and a Pet is for Life.

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When someone gives me the opportunity of reading some Asian fiction, I just jump in queue and hope for the best and since I did know some of the names, because of other anthologies or novels that I’ve read before, I thought, what could possibly go wrong, in here the theme is many times of family, human relationships, and many of those are disturbed by the paranormal, I don’t like to give spoilers, but in many of the stories you’ll have people being visited by ghosts, in one you have a woman finding more chicken feet that she can possibly eat being re-spawn in her house, some stories are born in Asian folklore, others are born from other ideas and brought forward.

I really enjoyed this trip, only a few of the stories were really science fiction, but it was still satisfactory to read, I really recommend people to read this book.

Thank you NetGalley and RDS Publishing, Raw Dog Screaming Press for the free ARC and this is my honest opinion.

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I was really excited to read this, because the concept is fantastic and one we sorely need more of. I'll always advocate for more angry Asian women stories, and I strongly resonate with feminine anger and horror as a genre. There was an enjoyably wide range of genres and inspirations, and some truly incredible concepts, twists, and images throughout the book, with Grace Chan's horrific, layered and poignant "The Mark" as a true standout. However, a lot of the other stories didn't quite work for me in execution; a lot of them felt underdeveloped, and I wished a lot of them were better paced and had more depth, for such a meaningful theme. I was slightly surprised there was no queer rep in an anthology about othered Asian women.

I was also jarred by the italicisation of non-English words, and there was also reason we needed, in an anthology of Asian voices, a white writer doing the afterword talking about how the stories rang true based on her generalisations from living in Japan for 2 years as a teenager.

Thank you for the ARC.

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Beautifully written and scary stories that hit home for Asian women especially, although the collection has a lot to offer no matter the reader’s background.

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Rating: 3.5/5 ⭐
This book was good, but not as "horror-esque" as I expected. It's more along the lines of speculative fiction, mixed with dark fantasy/folktales and sprinkled with horror.
Since this is an anthology, I obviously found some of the stories more entertaining than others but overall the writing, settings, and themes were enjoyable throughout the entire book.
It had very strong feminist vibes and a running theme in the book seemed to be about Asian women fighting against, or at times even embracing, the old standards/expectations set for women in Asian society and culture. Which, of course, is always a great, empowering moment that I can respect and admire.
Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the authors for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I really enjoyed this short story collection. As someone who loves short stories, but also loves stories that deal with being a woman in society, this worked really well for me.
I loved the messaging, folklore, and subject matter a lot of these touched on.
I think my only issue was, I wanted more horror. A lot of these have horror elements involved, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them specifically horror.

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Fantasy, horror, mythology, short story, magical retellings, and YA fiction lovers unite!

This collection of short stories is truly magnificent! Although they are separate stories, they flow well together. Some are creepy, while others are more atmospheric. Some are better written than others, but most are very engaging and made me want more. There were a few stories that didn't capture my attention, which is why this was only 4 out of 5 stars. However, I appreciate that this collection focuses on Southeast Asian authors, stories, and characters. I definitely notice that Southeast Asian authors and characters are often overlooked when people say they read Asian-written or Asian-centered books. This collection perfectly highlights the diversity of Southeast culture, communities, people, and lives!

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I was intrigued by the premise of this book and was particularly drawn in by the fact that it included a story by an Indonesian writer as well (it’s just very rare!).
The stories in this collection are as diverse as the continent of Asia, and I truly loved reading them, even though I’m not a fan of horror - at all!
I also interviewed Nadia Bulkin, the Indonesian-American contributor for the newspaper Jakarta Post, (Link below)

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Thank you net gallery for the advanced copy of this book'
Black Cranes is a collection of short stories written by women based on Asian folklore. Many of the stories reflect family values and obligations. Most are a little creepy. This was an enjoyable read.

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Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women features fourteen outstanding short stories from women that beautifully capture what it means to be both a woman and Asian.* Each author brings her own voice, perspective, experiences, and cultural history to the anthology, which gives it a robust and dynamic appeal. Whether the stories are based in science fiction, folklore, or the seemingly mundane world, each addresses the central themes in a unique way.

Here is my breakdown and thoughts on each story:

1. The Genetic Alchemist's Daughter (Elaine Cuyegkeng): A twisted tale about the pursuit of "perfection" and who defines it.

My thoughts: Wow. A fantastic way to start the anthology with hints of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Stepford Wives. I'd love to see this worked into a full-length novel.

2. Kapre: A Love Story (Rin Chupeco): Mythological creatures from the Philippines take center stage in an unconventional love story.

My thoughts: I'm a sucker for mythology and folklore, so this story satisfied on multiple levels. I loved the inclusion of different creatures that have wildly contrasting views on humanity and the relationship their kind should have with humanity.

3. A Pet Is For Life (Geneve Flynn): Featuring the kuchisake-onna (slit-mouthed woman) from Japanese urban legends, Flynn delivers a dark twist on predator and prey.

My thoughts: I freaking loved this story! Intensely visual and dark. I can absolutely see this as a horror movie.

4. Phoenix Claws (Lee Murray): Rooted in cultural bias and racism with a unique spin on the hungry ghost trope.

My thoughts: So twisted, and yet, despite the supernatural element, I can totally see the events of this story playing out as written.

5. Of Hunger and Fury (Grace Chan): Another spin on the hungry ghost myth, Chan creates a vibrant landscape filled with mystery and complex relationships.

My thoughts: A visceral entry that made me question reality. I'm still thinking about this one.

6. Skin Dowdy (Angela Yuriko Smith): One of the shortest stories in the anthology, this is a dark tale of technology, love, and revenge.

My thoughts: Although short, this is another story I can see making a great movie or a full-length novel. So many elements to explore and yet presented a complete, satisfying package.

7. Truth Is Order and Order Is Truth (Nadia Bulkin): A delightfully dark tale of Nyai Roro Kidul (Indonesian mermaid).

My thoughts: A little confusing at times, but overall, a dark twist on mermaids and the folklore that surrounds them in different cultures.

8. Rites of Passage (Gabriela Lee): A tale featuring the Philippine tiyanak (vampiric creature that takes on the form of an infant/toddler) and engkanto (mythic elemental forest spirits) that gives new life to the monstrous birth horror trope.

My thoughts: Dark, disturbing, and wildly imaginative. I loved this twisted-timeline story and again, would love to see it worked into a novel or even a movie.

9. The Ninth Tale (Rena Mason): Never try to outsmart a huli jing (Japanese fox spirit) or you just may end up reaping what you sow.

My thoughts: Another entry rooted in folklore and so beautifully written I was sad to see it end.

10. Vanilla Rice (Angela Yuriko Smith): Smith's second entry is no less powerful than her first. With a focus on identity and what makes us who we are, Vanilla Rice is a take of DNA manipulation gone awry.

My thoughts: We all have something we'd like to change about ourselves, but what if the choice of making that change was taken from us? Are we truly who we're meant to be? Short and though-provoking, and definitely one of my favorite.

11. Fury (Christina Sng): Set in the future on another planet, Fury is one of the longer stories and explores what it means to be human.

My thoughts: A solid science fiction story that has a few of my favorite elements: a strong female protagonist, a unique spin on zombies, and best of all, a cat!

12. The Mark (Grace Chan): Chan's second offering is no less disturbing than her first. A woman discovers a strange mark on her husband's torso and begins to question everything.

My thoughts: Vivid writing once again builds a complex relationship that will have you questioning if this is a tale of body snatchers or a woman mad with grief.

13. Frangipani Wishes (Lee Murray): Murray pulls off a rare second person point-of-view story about the lengths one will go to in order to better themselves with the flair of a classic Twilight Zone episode.

My thoughts: This started out a little confusing because of the second person POV, but I soon got into the meat of the story and was not expecting the twisted ending.

14. Little Worm (Geneve Flynn): Playing with the myth of the kwee kia, this story makes you wonder if the characters are actually faced with a "ghost child" or are they simply dealing with generational trauma.

My thoughts: Flynn's second story was my favorite of the anthology. I really wanted this to be longer because I didn't want it to end, and yet the ending was so perfect, I couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up this wonderful anthology.

Overall, I loved Black Cranes and will definitely be seeking out more stories from these authors. They each have strong, powerfully unique voices that must be heard in all their glory, and this anthology is a fantastic way to discover them.

*For the record, I'm not Asian but have been close friends with women who are, including daughters of Asian immigrants--specifically, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and the Philippines--for years and have witnessed their struggles. However, I do not make any claim to fully understand those struggles as I am, after all, only an outsider to their respective cultures and families despite years long friendships.

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This was a delightfully creepy short story collection.
As with nearly every anthology, of course I didn’t like all the stories, but I did enjoy most of them and even the ones I did not like were well written.
Horror is a relatively new genre for me, but this was a great introduction.
I am fully aware that I will never completely understand what the authors wrote about and expressed through their stories, but all of them were written in a way that most people can understand them and feel for the characters.
I loved all the furious women in this story, especially the monstrous ones and will definitely be diving into the lore of many of these stories and check out other works by the authors.

All in all well worth reading, but be aware that these stories are dark and not light and fluffy. It is Horror, after all.

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lma Katsu’s forward is a tribute to the power of Asian women in horror. Previewing the stories to be told, Katsu informs the reader they are about to experience tales of folklore, loss, and power by women who refuse to adhere to stereotypes. Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women proclaims these are the tales of unquiet women. Each is an author whose voice needs to be heard.

Stories of folklore and identity feature throughout. “Kapre: A Love Story” by Rin Chupeco introduces us to Kapre, a monster from Philippine mythology. Kapre finds his rage quieted by a young girl and proceeds to watch over her for years to come despite the pain of their different worlds tearing at his heart. While other monsters push Kapre to embrace his true nature, Chupeco finds the humanity in monsters to present a stirring and heartwarming story.

“A Pet is for Life” by Geneve Flynn brings us a young woman who works in an animal shelter and adores her rescue dog. Approached one day by the Kuchisake-Onna, the “Slit-Mouth Woman” with a wicked pair of scissors, our heroine reveals she’s more than meets the eye with how she deals with monsters. Flynn writes suspensefully and skillfully, but also with a startling amount of empathy and compassion.

Grace Chan’s “Of Hunger and Fury” explores integration and the sacrifices expected to achieve it. This is a story of culture, loss, and of hunger and rage. Chan also examines what this means when the memories are not joyous, all through the eyes of a hungry and wrathful ghost.

The premise of integration continues in Angela Yuriko Smith’s “Vanilla Rice,” which carries the resonating themes of mixed identity. A short but impactful story, Smith presents the challenges of attempting to fit in elsewhere and the impact it can have on a family.

“Fury,” by Christina Sng is a zombie tale where a young woman raised in the military tries to find a cure for her father. Sng gifts the reader with a bleak story but offers rays of hope and the courage of holding on to identity.

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DNF'd halfway through the third story. I really liked the first story but could not get into the second and third story. This collection of short stories was just not for me.

Almond-eyed celestial, the filial daughter, the perfect wife. Quiet, submissive, demure. In Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject these traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness’, be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world.

Black Cranes is a dark and intimate exploration of what it is to be a perpetual outsider.

Featuring 14 stories by Nadia Bulkin, Grace Chan, Rin Chupeco, Elaine Cuyegkeng, Geneve Flynn, Gabriela Lee, Rena Mason, Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Christina Sng, and a foreword by Alma Katstu.

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This is a beautiful re-release, by Raw Dog Screaming Press, of the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award-winning anthology ‘Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women,’ with a new afterword by Nancy Holder. It’s quite evident why it was critically acclaimed everywhere in 2020, upon first release: it’s a top-quality anthology, covering all the bases, from science fiction to fantasy, though, unfortunately, not as much horror as I would have liked. The fact that I enjoyed the book anyway, reveals how good it is! Dark, feminist fiction seems to flourish nowadays, and this anthology offers the best in the genre. There are cyberpunk societies, zombie apocalypses, family curses, all seen through Asian folklore. Particular standouts for me were ‘The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter’ by Elaine Cuyegkeng (minor complaint: perhaps it’s too good a story to be in the beginning of the anthology), ‘The Mark’ by Grace Chan (I felt really lost in this story, and even now I’m not sure what the point was, but I loved the writing!), and, well, of course, ‘A Pet is for Life’ by Feneve Flynn, which had a jaw-dropping twist. So, if you like speculative fiction, focusing on race, folklore, gender, and social criticism and/or allegories, this is the best volume around for you!

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