Courtney Amber Kilian’s story “Color Has History” won‘s 3rd Annual Fiction Contest, judged by Skip Horack, and is featured in Issue 31: Ruin + Renewal. Below, Kilian lists her reading recommendations, suggesting a few works that have helped shape her writing.


Humanimal: A Project For Future Children by Bhanu Kapil

Kapil’s work is innovative and experimental in form, which fascinates me as a writer. Humanimal is a narrative documentary bordering poetry and prose, and within its lyrical movement of images, the book develops and deconstructs bodies, both human and animal, intersecting them, asking us to reexamine and question our own composition and what it means to be human. Kapil breathes life into black and white images, which often lilt between dreamy and horrific, but in her work, the uncomfortable and disturbing are captivating. She invites readers to question their own actions and physical bodies.

Entering Fire by Rikki Ducornet

Following a botanist father obsessed with female form in the exotic rain forests of Brazil and his perverse anti-Semite son seeking racial purity in WWII Europe, this novel is filled with forbidden, taboo, obsessive, and wild imaginings. Ducornet crafts multi-dimensional characters that are real, disturbed, and comically flawed. She captures the fragility of life, and in doing so makes readers question how we move through our own history and how we treat others. Although her writing can be startling and unnerving, it takes on gorgeous and thought-provoking textures. The emotion in this novel is raw and unclothed, offering both shock and endearment. Ducornet intertwines letters, newspaper clippings, and quotes from reference books throughout her narrative, bringing enchanting depth to each page.

Spell of the Sensuous, by David AbramThe Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram

Abram blends science and sorcery, delving into human health and the spirit world, seeking answers to what is often unexplained. Abram believes we must live in sync with and learn from nature, and here he fuses together various cultural interpretations and medicinal shaman philosophies to learn about healing, and to better understand the body in relation to the outside world, which is also very much alive. He argues that we need the natural world—which is quickly disappearing—for our own health, longevity and sanity. Above all, the text is about being human and being in touch with the natural world and the ‘others’ who occupy it. To be a part of nature—to appreciate it, look at it with awe, live with it, and listen to it—is to be human.



Courtney Amber Kilian teaches creative writing and composition in San Diego. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Mary Magazine as the New Voice in Nonfiction, 1913: a journal of forms, and California Prose Directory: New Writing from the Golden State. She loves yoga near trees, growing copious amounts of fresh produce, teatime, and floating in the Pacific. Follow her @CAmberKilian and

Header photo credit: arbyreed via photopin cc

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One Response

  1. Frank Izaguirre

    Entering Fire sounds like a really nice read. The romance in the rainforest subplot reminds me of a forgotten novel I’m quite fond of, Green Mansions by WH Hudson, an author Rachel Carson claimed inspired her. I’m even curious whether the mamey on the cover, a favorite fruit of mine, plays a prominent role in the story.

    I found Spell of the Sensuous dense and quickly put it down when I tried it a few years ago, but maybe it’s time to pick it back up. Thanks for the list.

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