I received the novella DEPART, DEPART! by Sim Kern as an e-ARC (Advance Review Copy) several months ago in exchange for an honest review, and I am finally getting around to actually reviewing it. And I have one reaction to sum up my feelings upon finishing this book at last: I am stunned by this book’s force and magic, blown away by its relevance for our times.
I also feel a twinge of regret about this book, because there are those who will miss out on its power because they will immediately dismiss it as too “preachy,” too gay, too political, too wrapped up in the politics of identity, too steeped in generational tension, trapped in this uniquely tribal moment in time of Snapchat filters and viral tweets. But those are the very people who need to read this book. We can only heal the divisiveness in our country if we understand each other.
And this book will give you an unflinching, intimate look at what it means to be queer, what it means to be alone in a country that seems against you, in a body and a religion that seems against you, and more than any of that, what it means to be human and to make unbelievable choices for yourself and for your community in the face of a climate crisis that heartbreakingly may still be prevented, or we can at least still try to prevent it.
DEPART, DEPART! is set in Houston, Texas, after a climate-change-fueled hurricane destroys the city. The whole country is simultaneously ravaged by unprecedented climate events. The novella follows the journey of Noah Mishner, a trans Jewish man haunted by the ghost of his great-grandfather, Abe, a Holocaust survivor. Noah follows the whispers of the ghost to safety, first abandoning his friends as he seeks shelter on the roof of his apartment complex as the floodwaters devastate the city below.
Crushed by grief, and layers of grief at that, the story then shifts to Dallas, Texas, where Noah takes shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. The rest of the story is centered in this setting, where refugees from the storm take shelter, and form a sort of community as they can, with all the trials and tribulations of refugees huddling together and not-so-together. Noah seeks refuge with the queer community there, all three or four of them at first, them against a world torn by hate, division and fear, even in the microcosm of this gym.
This is a story about identity, yes. It is a story about what you would do when crisis threatens everything you love and think you know. It is about the ties that bind. It’s a queer Jewish ghost story told from the view of the generation that has the brightest ideas to tun the tide on climate change. Even though this reads like a dark, dystopian novel, I found hope in it, in the end. Hope that humanity will always find a way, even now. To me, that’s the best cli-fi. The best of cli-fi (I really don’t like that term, I’ll just call it climate fiction) shows you how things could dramatically change for the worse so that we can change for the better.
And we must change, or this is our future.
Find the book on Goodreads and on IndieBound (I no longer link to Amazon. You know how to find Amazon…) It’s published by Stelliform Press and will be released on September 1. Preorders are available now.
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