Exploring the art of prose


Author: Gabriela Lee

Author’s Note

In “House of Cicadas,” the parallelisms between light and shadow, above and below, childhood and adulthood are all positioned to reflect each other, much like the way two mirrors directly facing one another will forever reflect the same image in two different directions. In this story about nostalgia, childhood friends Jun-jun and Blanca are separated when Blanca’s home is swallowed by the earth, only to reappear years later after the death of her mother. Their neighborhood is a callback to the hot, dry Philippine summers of my childhood: the dusty streets, the sepia-tinted houses, the games played between children. The cicada, a nocturnal creature that summons summer, doubles as a protector and a harbinger throughout the story. Even the way language moves in the story, with the first section written in the past tense and the second section written in the present tense, is meant to evoke how childhood exists in a distant, inaccessible past while the present is always malleable, moving, yet linked to memories and past promises. In a way, the tools used for writing flash fiction are similar to the tools used for writing poetry: metaphor does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of double meaning and narrative movement; repetition and recursion of words and images emphasize the ideas and themes of the story; words slip and slide between the real and the unreal, forcing the reader to wonder if the events of the story are really happening or if they are all in the imagination of the children. Whatever the case may be, the story hovers on the precipice of possibility, waiting to see what happens if/when Jun-jun and Blanca meet again.


GABRIELA LEE teaches creative writing and children’s literature at the Department of English & Comparative Literature at the University of the Philippines. Her prose has been published in the Philippines, the United States, Canada, and Norway, most recently in the anthology Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women in Horror, edited by Lee Murray and Angela Yuriko Smith. She has received a National Children’s Book Award citation in the Philippines for her children’s book, Cely’s Crocodile: The Story and Art of Araceli Limcaco Dans. Her latest short story collection, A Playlist for the End of the World, was published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2022. She is currently pursuing a PhD in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Learn more about her work on Instagram @sundialgirl.