Coyotes in Urban Turf Wars

A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Nahaules” (in This Strange Way of Dying, Exile Editions, 2013)

Cover photo courtesy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Artwork by Sara K. Diesel

Cover photo courtesy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Artwork by Sara K. Diesel

By Derek Newman-Stille

As in many of her works, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s short story “Nahaules” makes the urban space strange, exploring the intrusion of the folkloric into the cityscape. Nahaules, coyote shapeshifters, old stories, have come into the city, changing the city gradually as scents of the forest battle with smog, and buildings crack like mountains.

When she begins to be stalked by the nahaules, Moreno-Garcia’s unnamed narrator has to set aside her disbelief for legend and myth and start relying on old techniques for warding off the coyotes and reclaiming the urban environment. She is hunted, made a victim in her own home and she escapes from the mythical into the urban as long as she is able to until she is met with the inevitability that myths of old can only be fought with techniques of old.

The unnamed narrator, like many women in urban environments, is met with the process of being estranged from her home, made unsafe in an environment that she identifies as her own as predators push her to feel more and more uncomfortable. Stalked, she is forced to move further and further from areas that she considers her own, driven from her home by the predatory impulse of male stalkers as they move deeper into her territory. She plays with the image of being a victim, a sacrificial goat, while simultaneously turning the predatory behaviour back on her oppressors.

Moreno-Garcia reminds us that monsters hunt in urban environments and that people are made to feel unsafe and insecure, that their homes can be made strange and uncomfortable by intrusions of predators who rule through intimidation and threat.

To find out more about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work, you can visit her website at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/ . To read this story and others from This Strange Way of Dying, you can explore it at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/this-strange-way-of-dying/ . This collection will be available in the fall.

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