The first title from VS. Books: darkly humorous stories about a young woman floating in and out of her skin, trying on identities imposed on her by others.
In Téa Mutonji’s disarming debut story collection, a woman contemplates her Congolese traditions during a family wedding, a teenage girl looks for happiness inside a pack of cigarettes, a mother reconnects with her daughter through their shared interest in fish, and a young woman decides to shave her head in the waiting room of an abortion clinic.
These punchy, sharply observed stories blur the lines between longing and choosing, exploring the narrator’s experience as an involuntary one. Tinged with pathos and humour, they interrogate the moments in which femininity, womanness, and identity are not only questioned but also imposed.
Shut Up You’re Pretty is the first book to be published under VS. Books, a series curated and edited by writer/musician Vivek Shraya featuring work by new and emerging Indigenous or Black writers, or writers of colour.
Advance praise for Shut Up You’re Pretty
Shut Up You’re Pretty is an unforgettable collection of stories, signalling the arrival of a brave and distinctive new voice in Canadian literature.
This book asks us to witness the journey of a girl into womanhood, holding in her arms the fragile understandings of femininity as a commodity, femininity as a caretaker, femininity as a storyteller. Dulled by the residue of trauma and sharpened by the expectations of the streets, Téa’s characters are painfully and beautifully rendered in this gritty must-read novel.
Téa Mutonji arrives in serious play through Shut Up You’re Pretty’s array of intensely readable stories. We’re plunged into a chronicle of webbed millennial malaise, gendered and seaming with a discontent that does not sleep on the status quo of any page. Shut Up You’re Pretty introduces a writer assured and measured in a style all her own, holding a followed hand up to greats like Hurston and Kincaid. In a Canadian suburban that delights with a quotidian equal parts inevitable and unexpected, every narrative turn brings the marvel of a small insight and small triumphs lit by women and girls who invite us to excise the continental drift of a coming of many ages. Mutonji takes back the 21st century in this delicious feast of stories as vivid and taught as they are understated.
Téa Mutonji’s timely, original, and absorbing stories compose a shattered and shattering bildungsroman. Her lyric, dramatically charged fragments are linked by rich and vital prose, captivating and urgent storytelling, and an eye for the strange and striking detail. Probing the mundane, the traumatic, and all the struggles in between with authenticity, intelligence, and art, Shut Up You’re Pretty is a stunning, must-read debut.