A Child is Being Killed
by Carolyn Zaikowski
Aqueous Books, 2013
162 pages / $14 Buy from Aqueous Books
A doubling is also a fracture. It’s a breaking apart. Carolyn Zaikowski’s novel A Child is Being Killed knows deeply this violence of the double, enacts it time and again. It’s the site of the book’s hopelessness, but also of its hope.
A Child is Being Killed tells the story of Shrap, a teen girl whose father sells her into sexual slavery in exchange for his rival’s business. It’s at least as dark as it sounds. Shrap is imprisoned, beaten, raped, and subjected to scientific experiments. She lives in a world where endlessly repetitive trauma distorts all sense of time and place, an opaque anywhere-dystopia in which sensation and fantasy are all that she can hold on to. A Child is Being Killed is also about escapes, however partial or temporary. It is a book written with grace and passion, and it probably deserves a much more thorough discussion than I’m giving here. Still, I will offer these thoughts as a part of the larger conversation that the novel should generate.
The first double/fracture comes in the book’s title. In A Child is Being Killed, the verb ‘to be’ is repeated in different forms. This has a few effects. The wording holds the horror of killing in suspension. A child is being killed. The killing is neither something to happen (therefor stoppable) nor something that has happened (that can be overcome, or at least dealt with). The killing is happening. The book is written under the sign of a horror in process.
And what of the semi-repetition of ‘to be’? The doubling pounds home the fact: This is happening. This cannot be escaped. The cruel truth of the title’s double ‘to be’ is that even if you get rid of one, a child’s still killed. Even if you lose them both you get A Child Killed. At the same time the extra ‘to be’ distances the word ‘child’ from ‘killed’. It gives a gap, and in that displacement there is life with its ever-present hope.
September 3rd, 2013 / 12:55 pm