Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones Rating: ★★★★★
Mapping the Interior is a horrifying, inward-looking novella from Stephen Graham Jones that Paul Tremblay calls “emotionally raw, disturbing, creepy, and brilliant.”
Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.
The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.
Trigger warning: physical violence by a police officer, discussion of colonialism and genocide of Indigenous peoples, death.
Ghosts stories are more interesting when authors do something new with them. Stephen Graham Jones does something brilliant with ghosts, making it specific to him. Mapping the Interior centers around a young boy struggling with the death of his father. He sees his father, all decked out in Blackfeet regalia and walking the floors of their home. Junior tries to reach his father, figuring out more ways he can get his father from the invisible to the physical of the world. From ghost to a real, breathing and living human.
The bustles, the armbands, the beadwork, the cool knee-high moccasins-and the facepaint. It makes you look like the assassin-aliens in space movies. With your face black and white like that, you automatically slit your eyes like a gunfighter, like you’re staring America down across the centuries.
Because many of these practices were illegal until the 70s (sometimes longer), his father dressed in regalia is a memory forcing Junior to come to terms with not just family trauma but cultural trauma. It is a part of Junior, just as this memory and this ghost of his father is a part of him. The past is part of the present. The deputies and the neighbors that are in his life remind us that their existence was and is still seen as a threat.
Indians, we don’t have guardian angels-if we did, they’d have been whispering to us pretty hard when some certain ships bobbed up on the horizon-but we do have helpers. I think usually it’s supposed to be an animal.
The question Stephen Graham Jones suggests is what happens when your family carries the weight of being Native in a country that once wanted his people gone from their land. Given that the past is so much a part of the present, it is handed down to each new generation.
When I was twelve years old, I mapped the interior of our home.
Stephen Graham Jones does something really interesting with the home. Ghosts start to look like something other than a family member but something connecting Native people to their past with colonialism. ‘Interior of our home’ starts to look much more than blueprints.
Mapping the Interior is eerie and there’s always something around the corner. All the character’s are full of depth and imperfections. Junior has the feel of a true teenager, not some imagined idea of what teens are like. Everything in this book feeds on your ability to picture it as if in real life. The smushed cigarette, the silence, the burned spaghetti feels more like something happening next door rather than on a page.
No one does horror like Stephen Graham Jones.