Thompson-Spires has a gift for rendering difficult topics—race and gender, to name two—with delicacy, timeliness, and even whimsy. In "Whisper to a Scream," Raina is subjected to racial epithets and fetish jokes as she makes online relaxation videos. The interplay between Standard English and Ebonics in "Fatima, the Biloquist: A Transformation Story" shrewdly illuminates the code-switching many African Americans undertake to fit in.
In eschewing conventional story structures, Thompson-Spires's virtuosity is breathtaking. The titular tale, for instance, features a panoply of points of view, all pivoting around one tragic event. In the epistolary "Belles Lettres," two mothers exchange passive-aggressive notes via their kids' backpacks. Funny, smart, and #ofthemoment, this electrifying debut marks the emergence of a daring talent whose characters are as comfortable referencing Octavia Butler and Flannery O'Connor as they are dropping allusions to Fetty Wap and Patti Mayonnaise.