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Venus of Chalk

In Susan Stinson’s shimmering third novel, three friends drive from Massachusetts to Texas to unload an old bus, and in the process become the selves they were meant to be.

Carline’s life is settled and happy: she has a great home with her partner, Lillian, and a job she loves as the editor of a respected pamphlet series, The Modern Homemaker. But after an unpleasant harassment experience in her home town, when her aunt calls from Texas she surprises herself as much as anyone and says yes to the opportunity to accompany two friends across the country in an old bus. Stinson’s always sensual and humorous writing tingles on the page and nothing is quite what’s expected as Carline sews her way across the country and makes notes for her new pamphlet, “How to Ride a Bus.”

Venus of Chalk was a finalist for the Lambda Literary and Benjamin Franklin awards, and a Top 10 Publishing Triangle lesbian book of the year.


“This neatly-stitched tale of a latter-day home economist’s ‘glaring departures from sensible living’ is a religious experience. Under Susan Stinson’s microscopic needlework, the fabric of the phenomenal world shimmers with sublime beauty. A can of baking soda, a traffic pylon, a city bus—these things will never look the same again. Stinson lavishes the same minute reverence on her human subjects, discovering rich, sacramental meaning in their most banal small talk. This book unravels what you think you know about women and men, the freakish and the normal, shame and salvation—then mends it anew into a most surprising story.”
— Alison Bechdel, creator, Dykes To Watch Out For

“I am an enormous fan of Susan Stinson’s work, and, as a fan, consider it my duty to help more and more people know about its wonders: I can think of no-one who writes with more love, passion, and precision about the pleasures of the body and the pleasures of the soul, and that nebulous (often neglected) intersection of body and soul. She writes extraordinary love stories, with intelligence and generosity and a wild imagination.”
— Elizabeth McCracken, author of Bowlaway

Venus of Chalk is by turns tender and ruthless, dark and funny, haunting and starkly contemporary. In spare, eloquent prose Stinson mines depths most writers shy away from. And along the way she tells a gripping tale of a modern-day heroine who’s like no other you’ve ever seen. From the first page, I was under Carline’s spell. Single minded, indomitable-Carline is on a fast bus to Texas. This is one ride you won’t want to miss.”
— Alison Smith, author of Name All the Animals

“Carline is brave, strong and beautiful, just like Susan Stinson’s writing. As a reader, I was fascinated by Carline’s journey; as a writer I was dazzled by the language in which it was told.”
— Lesléa Newman, author of Heather Has Two Mommies

Venus of Chalk is a classic road novel, full of unexpected revelations and parallels between Carline’s old world and her new, but her interior and physical life are like nothing you’ve ever read before.”
Chicago Reader

“Like her characters, Stinson is ‘chronically interested’ in every aspect of life and her incredible eye for detail is astonishing and translates movingly into the pages of this wonderful novel.”
Altar Magazine

“The magic of this elegant novel is that it embraces both the surreal and the so real with sublime charm.”
— Richard Labonte, Book Marks

“Stinson’s prose style is reminiscent of some independent films–quiet, plain, quirky and true.”
The Women’s Times

“One of the best books of the year.”
Midwest Book Review

“Susan Stinson uses her exceptional literary vision to take the readers along on a wild bus ride of our own, all the while facing ourselves, and returning, renewed, to our extraordinary lives.”
— Janet Mason, This Way Out

About the Author

Susan Stinson is the author of four novels, including Spider in a Tree and Martha Moody, and a collection of poetry and lyric essays. Her work has appeared in The Public Humanist, The Kenyon Review, The Seneca Review, Curve, Lambda Literary Review, and The Women’s Review of Books. She has taught at Amherst and Smith, been awarded the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize, and has received a number of fellowships. An editor and writing coach, she was born in Texas, raised in Colorado, and now lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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