Book review: ‘Man Made Monsters’ and confronting our everyday horrors

Who among us hasn’t felt horrified by something in our lives?

Andrea L. Rogers’ “Man Made Monsters” illuminates the monsters we encounter daily, the ones that have plagued us for years, and the ones that are still to come.

This collection of horror stories, written by “Mary and the Trail of Tears” author Andrea L. Rogers, follows the lives of a Cherokee family over several generations, as each generation encounters its own magic and monsters. “Man Made Monsters” is an exploration of the world’s demons coupled with its strange beauty.

Beginning in 1839 with Ama Wilson’s people being hunted by Texas Rangers and discovering strange beings while on the trail towards Indian Territory, this collection spans the lives of her relatives for the next several generations, ending in 2039 with her family sheltering in a post-apocalyptic movie theater. In between, the Cherokee family members are visited by all sorts of creatures, from the ghosts of children in a family graveyard in 1945 to magical lockers in a highschool in 2000.

One very short yet moving story, “Hell Hound in No Man’s Land,” beautifully captures the bond between members of this extraordinary family. Two Cherokee cousins on the battlefields of World War One sit together, back to back, all night long as a beast lurks around outside their shelter. The story is chilling in more ways than one — this “beast” that hunts them could be many things, whether it represents the horror of the war or the horror of the men they had to fight it with, who very likely looked at them with much hatred. Regardless of how you interpret the beast, the cousins faced it together all night long, showing a kind of loyalty you seldom come by.

For fans of Mary Shelley or Stephen King, this book offers much of the same thrills. What is unique about “Man Made Monsters,” however, is how it fearlessly addresses the true horrors this family (and many others) faced, including racism, oppression, and violence. Coupled with beautiful illustrations by Jeff Edwards, Andrea Rogers’ stories reveal the horrors that plague many members of Native American communities today, including the inherent oppression, threat of domestic violence, and the lasting effects of forced removal. In just one story, a character loses a precious family member, manages to bring them back to life, and then has to confront the horror of their own work. This book weaves many such stories, packed with emotion as much as action. This collection will bring you tears, smiles and goosebumps.

“Man Made Monsters” condemns our everyday monsters while celebrating our everyday magic. From abusive boyfriends to loving older brothers, from a funeral for your own father to a friendly alien inhabiting your pool, Andrea Rogers tells stories of magic in every form it may take. What are monsters if not our way of explaining away the evilness of humans? What is magic if not our strategy to make sense of the beauty in life? These stories will open your eyes to horrors many cannot imagine, while restoring your faith in the power of family, love and devotion.

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Lucy Thill is a 16-year-old student at Saranac Lake High School. This review is part of a series of book reviews written by young writers from the Adirondack Center for Writing. Andrea L. Rogers will perform a story from “Man Made Monsters” at The Station in Onchiota on Saturday, July 15 at 2 p.m. Copies of the book will be available at the event. Learn more at www.adirondackcenterforwriting.org/events.


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