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Bearded Women Stories Paperback – 8 Nov 2011

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Amazing set of stories - a must read 23 Oct 2011
By K. Sozaeva - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Come on, come all and see the macabre, the strange and the beautiful world of those the world deems freaks! From conjoined twins to bearded woman to people with extra body parts ranging from a whole extra torso and set of legs, to some extra ears, to a cyclops, a giantess, a Medusa - even a Butterfly Woman! You will thrill to the sensuous legs on Bianca's Body - you will chill at the woman who spontaneously combusts when she becomes angry - you will fill with the woman who finds herself by joining eating competitions - you will wince with the pain of the girl with ichthyosis - you will gaze in awe at the holes in a woman's hands! Step right up, step right up - the show is about to begin ...

I really did enjoy these stories - it showed the human side of those the world would label freaks; it showed the sorts of things they did to survive and thrive in a world that sometimes thinks they should have been killed at birth. One thing that troubled me - but I think it was because the author wanted to make a point - was that so many of the stories didn't provide a name for the "freak" - just called them things like "the cyclops" or "the three-legged man." It dehumanized them. Then again, they tend to be dehumanized by the world, and, as I mentioned, I think that was a point that Ms. Milbrodt was trying to make. I highly recommend this amazing anthology.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The commonality of existence 31 Oct 2011
By TChris - Published on
Format: Paperback
You might call the characters in Bearded Women Stories freaks, although it probably wouldn't be politically correct to do so. The narrator of my favorite story in the collection, "Bianca's Body," has the lower half of a second body (she's named it Bianca) growing out of her own torso. Although the narrator's husband can have sex with either body (it takes some creative maneuvering), conceiving a child would probably require Bianca's removal -- a possibility that leads to considerable marital strife (in part because Bianca is the better lover). The narrators of several other stories are equally suited for carnival sideshows: a woman has snakes dangling like dreadlocks from her scalp; another is more than eight feet tall; one has an extra set of ears; another has holes in her hands so she can work as "the human fountain."

Some of Teresa Milbrodt's best stories are about women coping with adversity. A woman with a debilitating disease, contemplating suicide, wants to be buried in a scallop-shaped coffin, then finds herself confronting the coffin maker who wants to keep it. Freakish in mind or body they may be, but Milbrodt's characters have the same problems as everyone else. They're working in low paying jobs, struggling to pay their bills, trying to find ways to better their lives. They wish they could find love, or at least get a date with someone who isn't a jerk. They may have been teased more than other kids, and in adulthood they must endure those who view them as signs of the impending apocalypse, but as a result of being mocked they've learned to have compassion for other people who might be regarded as abnormal.

A unifying theme of Bearded Women Stories is, I think, the commonality of existence. As Milbrodt observes, the tattooed lady may have unusual skin illustrations but everyone develops markings on their skin -- nature's skin art -- as they get older. We are defined not just by the characteristics that make us unique, but also by those that make us just like everyone else: emotions, needs, desires. Most of Milbrodt's characters are visibly or behaviorally odd, but the stories send the message that nearly everyone is odd in his or her own way, even if their strangeness doesn't become evident until you come to know them well.

However unusual we may be in appearance or personality, learning to be comfortable with ourselves is the key to contentment -- that, at least, is overall message I took from Milbrodt's stories. The cyclops woman, for instance, knows that -- unlike herself -- "those who decree themselves unlovely" would never be noticed in a crowd. At least for now, she -- unlike her glaucoma-suffering father who insists that she hide her eye behind a shade -- has the ability to see clearly. That theme resonates through other stories. Which character has the greater problem: the "Butterfly Woman" who has skin flaps like a flying squirrel or her diabetic mother? The woman in "Markers" with the tattooed body or her stroke-impaired sister? And which character is the true freak: the titular bearded lady in "Mr. Chicken" (for whom deciding not to shave becomes a liberating experience) or the obese man who eats one hundred chicken nuggets every day at the restaurant she manages while fixing frightening stares on the other customers?

Not every story works; the only one not narrated by a woman is the least interesting of the "freak" entries, while the final story is too ordinary to fit in with the rest of the collection. Still, every story is well written, filled with the sort of detail that breathes life into characters. If I could, I would give Bearded Women Stories 4 1/2 stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Too amazing to be a sideshow 28 Oct 2011
By dianaers - Published on
Format: Paperback
It's almost impossible to resist the urge to stand up with a megaphone screaming, "Step right up, step right up! Come one, come all!" when introducing Teresa Milbrodt's Bearded Women Stories. Bearded Women Stories, while very unimaginatively titled, is a poignant collection of short stories that doesn't focus solely on the unusual physical conditions of the people but on their basic human struggles. It's not difficult to empathize with these people because many people have tried to have a baby, struggled with taking care of their families, have co-dependent relationships, etc.

I would not deign to use the word "freak" to describe the people in this book as I find it insensitive, but there is an array of different kinds of people in which one catches glimpses into their lives: a cyclops, a closeted bearded woman, a medusian, a woman that starts to spontaneously combust when she is angered, to name a few. I feel that Ms Milbrodt's stories are an allegory for the human struggles of the internally weak. While there are confident characters in the book, because of the judgment of their outward appearances, I think that their insecurities in themselves and their situations rise above their strength.

Ms Milbrodt weaves beautiful, heartfelt and achingly sad stories with her sideshow, which deserve to be on the main stage. Simply amazing.

I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy from netgalley for free. There was no compensation made for my review; it is my own, unadulterated opinion
Imaginative and Humorous 4 April 2012
By EllenJean - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of short stories. In most of the stories the main character is a "freak" of some sort: the titular bearded women of course, a woman who is 8 feet tall, a person with two sets of ears, a "Cyclops" woman born with one eye, a woman with two torsos, a woman with snakes growing from her head, a "butterfly" woman, and others. A few of the stories have a main character with an unusual obsession, such as the woman who becomes hooked on eating contests. The author has a vivid imagination, chronicling what life is like for each character in a world where most would consider them misfits. She has a knack for getting inside her characters and seeing the world as they see it, where they really are normal people stuck in abnormal bodies. The stories are very well written. There are flashes of humor--for example, the woman with the snakes works as a bartender and has to tie the snakes into a loose ponytail to keep them from dipping into the beer and getting drunk. The woman who self-ignites when she gets angry has to make a trip by plane--think about the challenges that creates. The book is dedicated to the author's parents, "who taught (her) the value of laughter and imagination". She proves in these stories that she learned both lessons well.
Praise for Bearded Women 16 Feb 2012
By Michaela Roessner - Published on
Format: Paperback
These are tender, touching, quixotic tales that reach to the heart of the contemporary human condition, casting a light on it as those who are "othered" (bearded women, a Cyclopean woman, a three-legged man, and more), and filled with vulnerability and self-doubt, strive to find normalcy, balance and love in a "normal" world where they are as often as not the more normal, balanced and loving.
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