Hot Little Hands: Fiction

Paperback | September 27, 2016

byAbigail Ulman

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Hot Little Hands immerses us in the world of eight young women at a time when the line between adolescence and adulthood blurs, and life can be thrilling and unnerving all at once. These are stories about break-ups that last longer than relationships; about sexual encounters, both real and imagined; about stumbling on the fringes of innocence and the marks desire can leave. About a desperate longing for maturity - and what happens when you finally attain it. In this wry and exhilarating debut, Abigail Ulman takes a disquieting look at the excruciating cruelties and surprising power of being a young woman.

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From the Publisher

Hot Little Hands immerses us in the world of eight young women at a time when the line between adolescence and adulthood blurs, and life can be thrilling and unnerving all at once. These are stories about break-ups that last longer than relationships; about sexual encounters, both real and imagined; about stumbling on the fringes of in...

Abigail Ulman was born and raised in Melbourne. She has a BA in Creative Arts from the University of Melbourne/VCA and was a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University. This is her first book.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 7.8 × 5.1 × 0.9 inPublished:September 27, 2016Publisher:Penguin UkLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0241974909

ISBN - 13:9780241974902

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Extra Content

Read from the Book

Jewish HistoryAll the Jappy girls are on a new diet. It’s called the Israeli Army Diet. I hear a couple of them talking about it at their lockers.“It’s two days apples, two days cheese, then two days chicken,” Rachel Hoch says.“And nothing else?” asks Maya Levine.“Exactly. So the trick of the diet is—­” Rachel looks over her shoulder to see if anyone’s listening. She sees me there and turns back. “The trick is that you get so sick of each food, you stop eating it by the end of the first day.”“So what do you eat?”“Nothing, that’s the point. That’s how you lose all the weight.”“Wow.”The bell rings and I close my locker. The two girls stay where they are, and I go to Jewish History....Yulia has saved me a seat in the corner. I spot her as soon as I come in. As I make my way over, I glance around the room, looking for Bradley Ruben. He’s talking to Josh Mellinger and laughing and, just as I’m about to turn away, he looks over, taking in—­with one up-­and-­down swoop of his eyes—­my synthetic-­leather shoes, the secondhand sweater with the holes in the sleeves, my reddening face. Before I have time to smile or say something, he goes back to his conversation. Inside my school dress, I break into a summer sweat. When I get to my seat, Yulia can tell something’s going on.“Are you okay?” she asks me in Russian.Irina turns around to look at me. “Yeah, your face looks funny.”“Okay everyone, quiet,” Mrs. Kansky calls out. Her skin is heavily powdered as usual, and today her eyebrows are drawn on with what looks like lead pencil. The long sleeves of her blouse hide the line of numbers on her arm that we all saw once, when she lifted her hand to write on the board and the cuff slipped down. “Daniel,” she says, though in her accent it is Dani-­ell, “enough with the Game Boy. Good, thank you. Now let’s begin. Who’s brought in their testimonials?”Last lesson we were doing the Spanish Inquisition, but Thursday is Yom HaShoah so this week we’re doing the Holocaust. Over the weekend, we were supposed to interview any survivors in our family, or find out what happened to them if they’re dead now, and today we’re supposed to tell the story to the class.“Who wants to go first?” asks Mrs. Kansky. No one volunteers, so she chooses Josh Mellinger. He goes to the front of the room and she makes him put on his kippah. Then she tells him to tuck in his shirt. While he’s pushing the shirt under his belt, the top button pops off his pants, falls onto her desk, rolls to the edge and off onto the floor. He tries to stop it with his foot but it continues its arc until it disappears under the desk. Everyone laughs.“My grandfather Isaac was nine years old the day he arrived at Auschwitz. He was separated from his family immediately—­his two brothers, his mother, and his father—­and he never ever saw them again. He didn’t get to say goodbye.”Next up is Natalie Greenblatt. “The kapo liked my grandmother,” she says, her fingers twisting the dial on her TAG watch as she talks. “I don’t know why. But she always used to try and give her some extra food if there was any.”“He found out later that his mother was gassed two days before liberation, and half a kilometer away from where he’d been.”“She was sick for years after the war, and to this day her stomach is too weak to digest orange juice or the peel of an apple.”One by one, the students who have stories get up to tell them, and the mood in the room changes. Everyone is dead silent, listening. The noise of kids outside shouting to one another on the quadrangle just creates a sense of hushed community inside our classroom. Even the blackboard dust floating in the sunlight near the window seems respectfully still.All this is disturbed halfway through the lesson, when Rachel and Maya come to the door, giggling and apologizing over each other for being late.“Sorry—­”“We were just—­”“She was just—­”“Shut. Up.” Everyone looks over to where Bradley Ruben is sitting, both hands resting calmly palms-­down on his desk, glaring at the girls in the doorway. Rachel and Maya go quiet and slink into nearby seats, not daring to make eye contact with each other. Then Bradley picks up his pen and leans over his notebook, drawing something in the margin. Wisps of his hair fall into his eyes, and he sticks out his bottom lip and blows them away.“All right, everyone. Let’s continue,” Mrs. Kansky says. She calls on Simon Herschenberg to read his testimonial, and everyone gives him their attention. Everyone except me. I can’t stop thinking about how much I love Bradley Ruben, how brave he is for saying what he said, and how I wish I had a sad Holocaust story to tell, so he would know I’m not so different from him and all the others....Yulia takes public transport home, so I walk up to the school buses by myself. It’s a warm day for April and in the bus park some older kids get into a water fight. Walking past, I get splashed with water from someone’s bottle. It rolls down my legs and into my socks. I look around but no one’s looking at me.“Let me take off my sweater first,” one guy calls to another. “I’m all sweaty.”“Yeah, you smell like a Russki,” a girl says, and people laugh.There are twenty-­nine school buses. I take number three. I stay close to the chain-­link fence on my way down there. My right shoe squelches as I walk.“Hi, Anya,” the bus driver says as I climb on.“Hi, John.”“Warm one, isn’t it? Lucky I got this air conditioner working again. My missus told me this morning it might rain. Melbourne weather for you.”“Yes,” I say.“I’m just hoping it lasts till the weekend. Go Dogs!” His mustache lifts to reveal a grin, and he laughs. I try to laugh back but it just sounds nervous. I walk halfway up the aisle and take a seat.Five minutes later, when the drivers turn on their engines, all the kids outside hurry to end their conversations. They hand back each other’s Walkmans, kiss each other on the cheek, and yell “I’ll call you!” as they rush to catch their buses.People pile on. The oldest kids head toward the back, touching the top of every seat as they go. A younger girl sits next to me. She lifts the armrest, swings her legs into the aisle, and spends the whole ride talking to a girl in the seat opposite.The drive from Burwood to Caulfield takes forty minutes. My stop is one of the last ones. John opens the door for me and waves goodbye as I step down onto the sidewalk.“Bye, Anya. See ya tomorrow.”“Okay, John. Yes, thank you. Bye.”Our house is the only single-­story place on the street. The front garden is overgrown with long grass and a wayward rhododendron bush that hasn’t flowered in the two years we’ve been here. As I pull the rubbish bin from the curb through the gate, I hear the sound of “Hava Nagila” being thumped out on the piano. Inside, the house smells like frying fish.“Hi,” my mother calls from the living room when I pass. “There’s sirniki in the kitchen if you’re hungry.”“Okay,” I say.The young boy she’s teaching doesn’t look up from the keys.In my room I throw my backpack on the floor and fall back flat onto the bed. On the ceiling above me there’s a poster of Edward Furlong wearing a white undershirt and a scowl, torn from a magazine someone left on the bus last year. I roll over on my side and press my nose to the wall, breathing quietly as I remember. Bradley Ruben with his eyes on me. Bradley Ruben with his palms flat on the desk. Bradley Ruben with his fingers cupped around my breast, his tongue pushing its way into my mouth.“No no. Like this, like this,” I hear my mother say in the next room. I hold the pillow over my head to muffle the broken English coming through the wall, and the sound of a clumsy kid making the same mistakes over and over again.I had barely spoken to any of the Australian boys until two weeks ago. It was a Monday afternoon, and I had climbed off the bus to find Bradley Ruben sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against someone’s fence and smoking a hand-­rolled cigarette.“Hey,” he said as I walked by him. Then he picked a piece of tobacco thoughtfully off his tongue.“Hi,” I said, ducking my head down and pushing a strand of hair behind my ear.

Editorial Reviews

“A familiar yet highly inventive collection of short fiction which hits virtually all my buttons: dark humor, complex female characters, and a strong summer camp storyline.”—Lena Dunham, Lenny   “In this sardonic, smart, and thoroughly modern debut collection, [Abigail] Ulman presents nine stories about young women on the verge of adulthood, motherhood, and more who make momentous decisions while delirious with desire.”—O: The Oprah Magazine   “[A] rich [comedy] of manners that [takes] in not just the girls, but also the mystified boys and authority figures in their orbit, the head-shaking teachers and the parents who double as anxious chauffeurs . . . [Ulman] excels at dialogue and narrative. The more you get to know her characters, the funnier it is to witness their verbal code-switching as they navigate between nosy parents, fumbling love interests, and trusted friends. That none of these stories is constrained by any need for tidy endings makes them all the more believable.”—The Atlantic   “Deftly written with a fresh and realistic style . . . Each female protagonist is wonderfully complicated and charming in her own way. . . . Ulman’s wit is sharp, and her observations are even sharper as she gives readers portraits of young women on the cusp of self-discovery or radical change. There is a narrative looseness in her style, but the emotional pull of the characters is powerful. It is this bi-polarity, the contemporary language mixed with the pop-culture references contrasted by the very real and urgent action of the stories, that is so entertaining and provocative. Ulman’s own confidence in writing is captivating, and her characters are colorful. . . . Hot Little Hands is overwhelmingly successful and intense.”—Bookreporter   “The protagonists in Ulman’s debut story collection, all in their teens and twenties, feel intensely real. . . . These stories explore the complexities of ambition, the intricacies of relationships, and, perhaps most of all, the distance between expectations and reality. . . . Themes of friendship, infatuation, self-discovery, and disillusionment intensify with each subsequent tale. . . . All the captivating women in this collection leave a lasting impression.”—Publishers Weekly   “The vague melancholy of growing up has hardly gone unexamined in fiction, but Ulman’s millennial take is genuinely insightful. . . . Ulman portrays her characters as unknowingly determining their places in the world, and she manages to depict this process absent self-seriousness and with a healthy dose of wry humor. Hot Little Hands is the rare collection that portrays how life pivots around mundane moments as readily as earth-shaking events.”—Shelf Awareness   “It is rare for a collection to so adeptly capture the way life can be at once facile and intense. Ulman’s details are lifelike and droll, her style lucid and engaging, and the overall effect stirring.”—Kirkus Reviews   “Ulman makes a noteworthy debut. . . . [She] writes without judgment, and this is what gives her characters life. They are multifaceted, flawed beings—sometimes victims of others, but often victims of their own actions—in whom readers will recognize flashes of themselves. Her unvarnished prose is ideally suited for this study of life’s messy realities: sex is not romanticized, nor is a secure or happy future guaranteed. Whether readers feel their consciences pricked or sense of kinship stoked, all will come away with plenty to think about.”—Booklist“The stories are beautifully paced, the dialogue perfect. There is a lovely comedy underpinning the cool tone. Often this becomes hilarious, but it is also controlled and well-judged. Abigail Ulman knows how to write a story, manage a buildup, hold your attention, suggest that somehow nothing much is happening while, in fact, everything is going on. I love how up-to-the-minute and streetwise the stories are, and how frank about sex and girls. Also, the ones set in San Francisco, filled with coffee shops and bars and bicycles and vegetarians and girls on the rampage (not to speak of guys), are brilliantly observed. This is a book I think girls will relish, guys might not like so much but they will need to read in order to know what girls are really thinking about.”—Colm Tóibín, author of BrooklynFrom the Hardcover edition.