Winner of the 2020 Black River Chapbook Competition

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Dominant Genes, the new hybrid collection from Stonewall Honor author and Lambda Literary Award finalist SJ Sindu, is equal parts power and astonishing beauty, tenderness and shimmering anger, poetry and lyric essays interwoven in a gorgeous exploration of family, heritage, and the construction of nonbinary and queer identities. “We learn our anger through osmosis,” Sindu writes of the inherited rage of South Asian women, “or maybe it’s in the breast milk, spreading through our veins long before we learn how to look only at the floor and walk without showing our ankles.” There is hope in this collection, and the lead weight of expectation, and warm moments of empathy too. Thematically linked and stylistically nimble, Sindu’s pieces play with the fragmentary nature of memory and identity, her speakers traversing with intelligence and compassion the complexities of mental health, love, and pressurized relationships with the people closest to us—those who love us intensely, even when they understand us the least.


Review in Brevity Blog

Review in Inklette Magazine

Review in The Georgia Review

Review in Carousel Magazine



Praise for Dominant Genes

"In SJ Sindu’s extraordinary new chapbook, her speaker lives in a world in which women are punished for their pleasure, rage, and attempts at freedom. Exploring ancient stories, like the Mahabharata, as well as the speaker’s own experiences growing up as a queer person in Sri Lanka and the US, Dominant Genes pulls at the strings that have stitched together our identities, making clear the social and cultural constraints that limit the freedom of women and gender nonconforming people. With tenderness and compassion toward her family, this smart, unflinching collection envisions a life for the speaker in which she does not inherit misogyny or her mother’s idea of progress, a life in which she is the 'seed in her own fruit.'" —Marianne Chan, author of All Heathens

"SJ Sindu’s new book Dominant Genes demonstrates the great pleasures and opportunities for surprise there are in hybrid forms. It’s what I like best as a reader: prose that understands the compression and vivid language of poetry and poetry that benefits greatly from the fiction maker’s sense of scene and story. There’s a wonderful lyric intensity here and beautifully nuanced interiority that I find deeply moving. A beautiful book written by an artist who moves fluidly between genres." —Erin Belieu, author of Come-Hither Honeycomb

"'I want to inherit your anger, and use your story to stitch my two selves back together,' writes SJ Sindu in this hybrid collection, poems and lyric essays weaving together the fragments of a life bifurcated across racial, familial, and queer identities. Blurring both genre and gender, Sindu questions descendancy, dominant genes something to unspool, silence something to unstitch, rage a means of survival. Yet as this collection undoes Sri Lankan matrilineal expectation, pulling at the faithless thread of what it means to inherit a story that does not serve you, it spins a richer myth of legacy and self, one that pierces like a needle." —Sarah Fawn Montgomery, author of Quite Mad

"Dominant Genes is a perfect collection. Every word SJ Sindu writes holds me even tighter in a queer, tender, and irreplaceable embrace. I want to cry with the speaker. I want to hold the speaker’s hand. Most importantly, I want to be with the speaker through their feminine rage, which is more commanding than the waves of the ocean times infinity. This is a chapbook that sinks you right in, through the narratives of an island child pressured by their immigrant family of expectations of monogamy, marriage, children, and a “woman’s place.” Through all of this, the snake tongue prevails—enrages—and empowers decadently." —Dorothy Chan, author of Revenge of the Asian Woman, Chinatown Sonnets, and Attack of the Fifty-foot Centerfold

"The most thrilling feature of SJ Sindu’s Dominant Genes is its distinctive, multifaceted probing of expectation: the dynamic, often devastating, gap between what we hope for and what we live with. Sindu’s explorations of historical, societal, parental, and personal expectations—those tense and fertile convergences of duty, possibility, inevitability, and desire—yield piercing flashes of wonder, anger, insight, and joy. In her daring, masterful, genre-expanding work, Sindu enlivens and expands our expectations for what a collection can be and how writing can reveal, provoke, and inspire." —Daniel Scott Tysdal, author of Wave Forms and Doom Scrolls, Fauxccasional Poems, and The Mourner’s Book of Albums