REVIEW: Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman
Dear Ms. Glassman,
Not too long ago, I got into a Twitter discussion in which I mentioned my worry that reading closed bedroom door romances was a means to learning how to write courtship, and now that those romances are no longer available to readers who don’t care for inspies, that skill may be getting lost. I miss books with a strong focus on the courtship and on the emotional and intellectual connection.
Ana Coqui chimed in and asked if I’d read your short story, Knit One, Girl Two and described it as all courtship and having a lot of tenderness, so I downloaded a sample. The beginning is the least absorbing part of the story, but I persevered for the first few pages and my attention was engaged quickly after that.
Clara Ziegler is an independent, small-batch wool dyer and a queer single woman. She works at a theater box office but knitting is her passion. As the story begins, Clara is trying to come up with a new concept for her sock club. To quote Clara:
“Sock club is this thing a lot of indie dyers—sorry, independent, small-batch dyers—are doing where you pay a flat fee and every month or every other month you get a surprise yarn color.”
Clara put all her ideas into the last sock club she did, and she feels stumped for more, until on her lunch break, she comes across an artist’s exhibit at a gallery. The color contrasts catch her eye, and she leaves her card for the artist in the hopes of obtaining permission to use these same color schemes in her yarn dyes.
When the artist, Danielle Solomon, calls Clara, they agree to meet up for lunch to discuss the legal issues. At lunch, they bond over their love of Jewish delicatessen food and their dislike of matzo.
Clara is attracted to Danielle but reminds herself that her new friend could be straight. Even when she learns that Danielle is bi, she hesitates to make a move because there’s much at stake—their partnership, their budding friendship—and most of all, because it becomes clear that Danielle is going through a rough time.
Knit One, Girl Two is a quirky and charming short story. Not only are the two women artists in different mediums, but they share a love of the same television show and its fanfic community. Clara’s cute cat, The Phantom, plays a role in the story, as do Danielle’s minor celebrity uncle, Snowplow Solomon, Clara’s relatives and her co-worker Nasreen, a knit and crochet group at the local LGBT center, and the Fort Lauderdale setting.
I appreciated the diversity of the cast and ate up the specificity of these details. I could tell that this was an #ownvoices story when some of the ins and outs of Jewish dating, such as asking how kosher the other person keeps and respecting those boundaries, were discussed by the characters. But (a very minor point) I did feel that the TV show, Captain Werewolf, sounded a little unlikely.
The conflict in the short story is minor and mostly external, having to do with the yarn club and with the tough situation Danielle is dealing with, which I won’t spoil here. The internal conflict is low-level, which is fitting for a story of this length (68 pages), and it centers on Clara’s fears that Danielle might not be queer or might not like her or that she might mishandle the situation somehow.
All of this was believable, human, and vulnerable. That was perhaps what I appreciated best about the characters: their care for each other, their respect of each other’s boundaries and fragile spots. They were very gentle with each other in the best possible way (and I don’t mean in bed, since this short story is actually kisses only).
The other thing I loved was the way Danielle’s bisexuality was treated as just another facet of her character, rather than a catalyst for a hot threesome scene. Not that there’s anything wrong with hot threesomes, but I’m tired of how that seems to be the main way bisexuality is portrayed in m/f romances.
There was also no fat shaming around Danielle’s size. Clara found her attractive just as she was, yay. And as promised, the short story satisfied my hankering for a courtship-focused romance. The only significant flaws I found was that some of the dialogue tags and adverbs distracted me early on, before I was fully engaged, and that I closed the story wishing Knit One, Girl Two were a little longer, so I could know the characters better. B+/A-.
PS I couldn’t disagree more re. matzo. Matzo FTW!