Nickole Brown has written another masterpiece. Yes, I said it. A masterpiece. Fanny Says is a rollicking tribute to Nickole’s unapologetic, sassy grandmother, Fanny. Similar to Nickole’s tender, yet raw tribute to her sister in her 2007 novel-in-poem, Sister, we get to see the rough edges, the underbelly of this irreverent but loving grandmother through Nickole’s amazing poetic acrobatics that truly illustrate the fact that Nickole knows how to turn a phrase and she isn’t afraid to show her grandmother’s blemishes as well as her beauty marks. Fanny Says is 138 pages of lush language, written in the dialect of those warm spirits from Nickole’s old Kentucky home, but contrary to some writers, Nickole doesn’t poke fun or make caricatures out of the people of her youth – No – she gives the reader a true glimpse into a world where a word like fuck takes on a whole new meaning when uttered by the acerbic tongue of Miss Fanny. Grandma Fanny takes this one word and turns it into, of all things, a term of endearment.
Nickole writes of the “f” word that would regularly flow from the lips of her grandma:
[it is] often preceded by well, with the “u” low
as if dipping up homemade ice cream, waiting to be served
last so she’d scoop the fruit from the bottom, where
all the good stuff had settled down.
As I mentioned, Nickole does not censor her portrayal of her grandmother, and as a result, the reader is given a glimpse into the type of southern women I grew up around. The type of women who loved hard even when life didn’t love them back with the same fire and fierceness. The type of women who said awful, hurtful things out of ignorance and their own stubbornness, but were still the type of women who would fight to the death for their kin and their friends. There were places in the book where Fanny did not endear herself to me. To be honest, there were times during my reading of Fanny Says when I flinched from Nickole’s raw portrayal of her grandmother, Fanny. I found myself putting down the book several times, saying to myself, “I can’t deal with this woman anymore.” But I always found myself coming back to the book. That’s what Nickole’s writing does to you. She cuts you open with her writing, making you flee from it, determined to not go back to it, and then she offers you a gentle linguistic balm that pulls you right back into the text. Any writer worth her salt can write a loving tribute to her grandmother that makes the grandmother seem to be a cross between June Cleaver and Carol Brady, but it takes a gutsy writer to expose to the world both the darkness and the light within her grandmother, and never utter one apology. Congratulations to Nickole for doing it again with this, her sophomore effort. A true tour de force.
For more information about this incredible writer and her new book, Fanny Says, click here.