‘Katania’ by Lara Vapnyar


Photograph by Elizabeth Albert

From The New Yorker:

When I was a child, I had a family of doll people. They lived in a red shoebox painted to look like a house, with a dark-brown roof and yellow awnings. Inside the house, there was a set of plastic toy furniture, plus some random household items: a matchbox television, a mirror crafted from a piece of foil, and a thick rug secretly cut out of my old sweater. I also had a few plastic farm animals—a cow, a pig, a goat, and a very large (larger than the cow) chicken, which lived outside the shoebox.

The family itself consisted of the following individuals:

One pretty little doll, made of soft plastic, with painted-on hair and dress, who, in my games, represented me.

One naked, bald, vaguely female doll, made of hard shiny plastic, whom I designated the mother. I made her a Greek-style tunic out of an old handkerchief and glued a lock of my own hair to her head.

Two tiny baby dolls of unidentified gender, made of hard, matte plastic, and wrapped in blankets of the same kind of plastic.

And one hedgehog with a human body, dressed in a long skirt and apron, with tight, curly hair covered with a kerchief, to whom I assigned the role of grandmother.

What my family lacked was a father, but a father doll was a true rarity. Nobody I knew had a father doll.

…Read more