A Review of Annell López’s I’ll Give You A Reason

by Rebecca Holcomb

Annell López’s short story collection is nuanced and direct all at once, filled with characters that experience unique modern-day challenges, central to “American Society,” but that are more importantly, specific to Newark, NJ. The range of topics connected to the “Ironbound” López broaches are broad: gentrification, Dominican heritage, sexuality, racism, and immigration. The scope of characters and situations in this collection is remarkable: from an adolescent finding out she holds an illegal immigrant status, to a grieving woman who goes bear hunting with a man she met online, to the love two people find in a fake marriage.

These stories ring in ways that are at times, delightfully relatable, consciously twisted, or brilliantly hopeful—sometimes all three at once. Take for instance the narrator of “I’ll Give You a Reason,” who bullies a classmate named Maria, by hiding her belongings because Maria cries all the time in class for seemingly no reason. The narrator wonders where Maria’s tears come from, and tries to make herself cry as such in her room: “Before I could hold on to it [the urge to cry] long enough to release it, I heard my mother’s voice in my head: what do you have to cry for? I’ll give you a reason” (143). Later, Maria, the soft and timid girl from class, invites the narrator over to her apartment above a pet shop and forces her (against her will) to watch a snake eat a mouse. During this interaction the little girl Maria tells the narrator, “Don’t touch my shit” (146). And that is the way the characters operate in this collection, with an inner strength and grit that propels them through the challenges of not being seen, not being respected, or stuck somewhere along the way in their daily lives. López might achieve this by portraying two girls trying to understand each other from different perspectives or by a rug meaning more than a rug in “Something Larger, Something Whole.”

López’s voice is one that is both discerning and luminous. In “Love Language,” a woman struggling in her marriage is told by her mother to perform rituals to save the marriage: “Did I try wearing a red thong for twenty-four hours, then boiling said thong along with a pair of my beloved’s underwear? Did I place a figurine of San Antonio—upside down, because otherwise it won’t work—on top of a bed of flowers?” (133). Or in “Bear Hunting Season,” when Nina thinks, “…she imagined herself wielding a gun, in charge of her life the way Henry seemed to be in charge of his. It was enough to make her wonder if she was ready for an unexpected thrill. A jolt that would make her feel like time was moving again” (85).

This author is one that will not disappoint. You can purchase her book through The Feminist Press now.



Annell López is a Dominican immigrant. She is the author of the short story collection I’ll Give You a Reason, winner of the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize, forthcoming in 2024 from the Feminist Press. A 2022 Peter Taylor fellow, her work has received support from Tin House and the Kenyon Review Workshops and has appeared in American Short Fiction, Michigan Quarterly Review, Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. López is an Assistant Fiction Editor for New Orleans Review and just finished her MFA at the University of New Orleans. She is working on a novel.

Rebecca Holcomb is a PhD fellow at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette studying Fiction. She has an MFA in creative writing from Florida State University, an MAT from Northwestern State University, and a BA in English from Louisiana State University at Alexandria. Her fiction appears in Hard to Find, an Anthology of New Southern Gothic, published through Stephen F. Austin’s University Press, and Yalobusha Review.