The Dirt Chronicles

Cover of The Dirt Chronicles

Kristyn Dunnion. The Dirt Chronicles. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012. Paperback. 246p. $17.95. 978-1-55152-426-9.

Dunnion’s elegant book is more postmodern novel than the short stories that it is billed as—intense, thick realities where real characters live out sad and exhilarating lives. They range from undocumented immigrants to queer teens in the criminal justice system, gutter punks to crime bosses, and yet exist inside a carefully structured fictional whole that puts outsiders in and shows readers around subcultures in Toronto–gritty squats and lofts, desperate tenements, and lonely roads.


Dunnion’s earlier experimental lesbian sf novel, Big, Big Sky, featured vivid alien landscapes and bodies, so it comes as no surprise that the setting of these stories is engrossing and specific enough to read like an sf world. It also vividly demonstrates the emotional play of the narrative.


This book shows graphic violence. Powerful characters and institutions cruelly abuse others. But Dunnion’s razors are sharper than just that. Her characters show that the victims are not weak, and several of them fight back hard. Here a character, a teenaged lesbian in another kind of prison, works out her survival: “Creak. I lean against the second step. Crack. An old board breaks loose–the wood comes free when I tug hard at one end. Nice. Now I have a weapon: a spider-infested two-by-four with rusty nails at either end. I rinse the thing off in the sink, wash the sticky white nests down the drain.”


Gay male readers will appreciate the quirky and sexy romance that ignites between a disaffected office worker and the blond Viking of a bike messenger named Two Ton, whose honest desire, brute force, and unexpected but frustratingly limited emotional tenderness captivates. He eventually cycles back around in this narrative in a minor way, showing again how tightly Dunnion weaves her threads.


Recommended for collections of lesbian, gay, and bisexual fiction, as an adult novel with strong older teen crossover appeal, and for readers hungry for strong queer women characters. Of particular note is that one of the teenaged lesbians is Native American, and part of the narrative follows her and her girlfriend back to the reservation where she grew up.


Reviewer: Joel Nichols
Free Library of Philadelphia



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