No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

Miranda July had a collection of short fiction published in 2007. Perhaps you know her better from the film Me and You and Everyone We Know. Aside from an affinity for long titles, July's strength in writing is examining unique, unusual subject matter in a very approachable and honest way.

For my tastes, the collection is exciting right from the first story. July mostly compiled stories barely above the length of flash fiction, a classification near and dear to my heart. She does not choose the most monumental, earth-shattering epics to examine; instead, she writes complete accounts of moments.

In "The Shared Patio," a young woman decides to take advantage of the patio attached to her apartment, only to find herself having sexual fantasies about her neighbor who is having a seizure. "The Swim Team," my favorite of the collection, shows a young woman teaching a group of senior citizens how to swim on dry land. The first half of the collection is dry, quirky, shocking, and entertaining.

The longer stories, those exceeding 20 pages, tend to get a bit stagnant. In these, the new and unique ground explored in the almost-flash fiction begins to fall to the wayside in favor of slightly obscured cliches. "Something That Needs Nothing," about young lesbians coming of age through sexual exploration and a huge dive into the deep-end of independence, loses its charm very quickly in the face of unlikable characters. "Making Love in 2003" is an older story told through a new lens, though the lens never quite comes into focus on just why the main character is acting the way she does; there is a logical justification provided that rings false for this particular narrator.

There is one exception to the issue with the longer stories: "How to Tell Stories to Children" is masterful. I don't even want to hint at the surprises in the story, so I'll leave it at this: July leaves you with her best and most shocking story. It's awesome in the true sense of the word.

The collection is most certainly worth reading. Even if you don't like every story (how often does that happen, anyway? never?), July has managed to publish one with a great overriding arc and lots of movement and interest. With the exception of a few of the longer stories (and perhaps I'm just coming from a jaded perspective from reading far too much short fiction), No One Belongs Here More Than You is compelling. I highly recommend reading it. Then, go visit her fantastic website for the release of the book.