Reading Monster Portraits was like being initiated into some forbidden magic — requiring you to give every part of yourself as it both overwhelms and elevates. This phenomenal sibling duo bring us both poetic and imaginative prose interwoven with philosophy (Sofia Samatar) and absolutely stunning portraits of the monsters that are as gorgeous as they are grotesque (Del Samatar). Every page brims with it's own unique cosmos — meditating on how power and the monster relate, and what it means to exist between worlds yet never be welcome in either. This is a sacred book, gifting us with a vibrant mythology for anyone who exists outside the margins. Recommended By Cosima C., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Relentlessly original and brilliantly hybrid, Monster Portraits investigates the concept of the monstrous through a mesmerizing combination of words and images. An uncanny and imaginative autobiography of otherness, it offers the fictional record of a writer in the realms of the fantastic shot through with the memories of a pair of Somali-American children growing up in the 1980s. Operating under the sign of two — texts and drawings, brother and sister, black and white, extraordinary and everyday — Monster Portraits multiplies, disintegrates, and blends, inviting the reader to find the danger in the banal, the beautiful in the grotesque. Accumulating into a breathless journey and groundbreaking study, these brief fictions and sketches claim the monster as a fragmentary vastness: not the sum but the derangement of its parts.
Del Samatar’s drawings conjure beings who drag worlds in their wake. World Fantasy Award-winning author Sofia Samatar responds with allusive, critical, and ecstatic meditations. Together they have created a secret history of the mixed-race child, a guide to the beasts of an unknown mythos, and a dreamer’s iconography. The monstrous never looked so simultaneously haunting and familiar.
"Fall into the wormhole of an imagination lit like fireworks. Sofia Samatar’s storytelling never fails to enchant and Monster Portraits lava-rocks Del Samatar’s stunningly detailed images with the breathless depth of her vision to peek between bushes, beyond diasporas, into mirrors, and across time through the everyday monstrous grandeur — coy and aggressive, best-kept secret and plain as the second nose on a rugged face — often missed by the naked eye. Be ready to be beautifully ruined." Samiya Bashir, author of Field Theories
"Monster Portraits is a visually and linguistically striking book — a moving and daring duet between an artist and a writer, between a sister and a brother. Del Samatar’s illustrations of monsters are gorgeous and hauntingly human. Their faces are emotive and their bodies are fantastical and graceful. Sofia Samatar — a dazzling and vital voice — braids autobiography with philosophy and storytelling (folkloric and literary) to create vignettes that reveal how Otherness is always present in our art, our histories, our mirrors. Her language is riveting, visionary, and breathtakingly alive. Monster Portraits is an immensely rewarding feast for the mind and for the eye." Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning
"Archetypes are reborn anew in this book; though their power to impact our lives is contemporary and immediate their sources are as ancient and original as ever. This marriage of fairy tale and postmodern autobiographical text creates a fearful symmetry." Kazim Ali, author of Silver Road: Essays, Maps & Calligraphies
About the Author
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013) and The Winged Histories (Small Beer Press, 2016), and the short story collection Tender (Small Beer Press, 2017). Her work has received the William L. Crawford Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. She teaches at James Madison University in Virginia.
Del Samatar holds a BA in Fine Arts from Rutgers University. He lives in New Jersey, where he is pursuing a career as a tattoo artist.