Introduction for Lilla Lit
August 18, 2019
by Virginia Bellis Brandabur
I have to tell you that reading the work of Missy Ladygo is, for me, a little like watching my chickens scope out the fence around my vegetable garden, circling and testing, certain they will find some hole in this purposeless perimeter. It is at once both hilarious and deadly serious, a kind of “If I wasn’t laughing I’d be crying,” experience. Missy’s stories feel the same, in that you often find yourself exploring with her the edges of an imposed narrative, looking for some way through this arbitrary boundary.
In a comedy piece she performed for Songbook PDX, Missy says, “Always I believed what everyone told me, that I was irredeemably weird.” Throughout the piece, she tests the evidence of this narrative: the too-late braces and breasts; the inescapable silence of shyness; the intractable loneliness that has her circling the Friday night football games, pretending to search for a friend in a crowd of aliens, that has her seeking acceptance in fringe religions. Yet there is one piece of evidence, a song, that betrays this given narrative, that “cracks open her heart,” and tells her, “it’s okay to be myself, a flapping strange bird, and… that the world is waiting for me and there is somewhere I can belong.”
In her story, “Skyward, Still,” Missy makes us watch not one, but two parakeets die from some uncertain illness, then asks “How will I tell my children?” In doing so, she exposes a questionable cultural narrative, that it is a mother’s responsibility to safe-keep her child’s emotions. With each fresh pain, we see her confronting and testing this notion; finally, at last, letting go this unrealistic burden.
In “King Street Station,” which won honorable mention from Glimmer Train, Missy’s narrator finds herself alone for the first time in years in a new city, depending at each turn on the directions of men to find her way, until at last she “wonders off the map of the real” and “walks confidently into a plate of glass like.. entering smooth water.” It is a most startling and satisfying disruption.
For Missy, the obstacles she confronts in her work are the too-often restrictive narrative boundaries imposed on girls, mothers, women. Like my chickens, though, Missy’s writing always manages to break through to the sweetness on the other side.
Please welcome writer and comedian, Missy Ladygo.