Sharma Shields /
March 27, 2019

About The Author

Sharma Shields

Sharma Shields is the author of a short story collection, Favorite Monster (Autumn House Press 2012), and two novels, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac and The Cassandra (Henry Holt, 2015 and 2019, respectively). Her fiction has appeared in Electric Lit, Catapult, Slice, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, and elsewhere.

The emotional distance fairy tales provide gave me sufficient room to explore the diagnosis of a major illness in “Avenue.” As I was writing this, I thought of the characters of my very favorite fairy tales, the sister in “Wild Swans,” for example, or the loyal friend in “A Traveling Companion.” Their stoicism and determination are remarkable. There is little fanfare made over the tough journey they must take, and rarely any tears shed. I find their grim stoicism and determination familiar: It’s how any of us battle our way through major life changes—grief, illness, injury—not because we are stronger than any one else, but simply because we have no choice. I love fairy tales because of their precision in tone, their super-naturalism and fatalism: One must deal with the hand they’ve been dealt, using whatever tools are available to them, and there’s no point in waxing sentimental about it. The witches in these stories often descend as abruptly and unreasonably as diagnosis itself, and in my story she arrives with a basket of raw meat, which the main character Gulisa must touch, acquainted now with her own mortality. The two major influences for this piece are my own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and the stories of Hans Christian Andersen.