Lamda Literary Award Finalist

"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

"...an able and lovely work of picaresque fiction....a marvelous achievement." - Women's Review of Books.

"...one of the best books of the year."- Midwest Book Review

"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

"Stinson's prose style is reminiscent of some independent films--quiet, plain, quirky and true."- The Women's Times

"The magic of this elegant novel is that it embraces both the surreal and the so real with sublime charm." - Book Marks.

"As the story comes to a very satisfying close, Stinson lets us into the sweet and romantic hearts of all her characters, creating one of my favorite reads so far this year."- Staff Pick, Lambda Rising Bookstore

Venus of Chalk

Praise for Venus of Chalk

"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, Name All the Animals

"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, author and artist, Fun Home

"Venus of Chalk satisfies like that first long breath after a good cry; like a thorough spring cleaning; like a warm, clothing-optional hug. If they ever conduct a census of fictional characters, the category of unapologetic fat woman will be nearly empty -- a criminal lack -- but for Carline, who courageously pursues her sense of self across continents, back to childhood, and into the mysteries of her own body. We can all benefit from her travel tips."
Marilyn Wann, author, FAT!SO?

"Susan Stinson is at her best in Venus of Chalk. In characteristically gracious Stinson-style, she gives voice to detail with incredible delicacy and finesse, even in the most pedestrian moments. By so doing, she exposes the contours of an otherwise unseen and elusive world. Venus of Chalk is an engaging journey of discovery brimming with imagery and adventure, passion and politics. This book is going places- hop on board for a great ride!"
Sondra Solovay, Esq., author, Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination

"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, Heather Has Two Mommies


Susan Stinson


The setting of Susan Stinson's third novel, Venus of Chalk, is a major switch from the historical western/​magic realist atmosphere of her last one, Martha Moody--published almost ten years ago--but the two books share a poetic style. The heroine of this contemporary story is Carline, who lives happily in Massachusetts with her poet lover and earns her living writing home economics pamphlets--a self-consciously old-fashioned conceit that Stinson handles well. One night when a pack of boys yells at her for being fat, she reacts in an ancient, unexpected way, and--reacting to her reaction--finds herself on a spontaneous bus ride to visit a grieving aunt in her native Texas.

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. Stinson's writing, rooted in the physical world, is thick with graceful, telescopic observations and feelings and bound together with invisible connective tissue that's extremely strong: it's one thing to write masterfully about the feeling of eating instant oatmeal from a Styrofoam cup in the morning, it's another to immediately bring you along to the next, unrelated idea with kinetic grace. But the narrative structure isn't a match for Stinson's powerful prose. At times I wished for a more focused, sustained plot--one reason Martha Moody worked so well was that the Bunyan-size story fit Stinson's writing. But in general, the spell her words weave is strong enough to take you wherever she wants you to go.

In all her work Stinson deploys the full force of her pen to describe the lives of fat women; it's pure pleasure to see such tour-de-force writing articulate the interior lives of people who can be invisible to the rest of the world. --Elizabeth M. Tamny

Selected Works

From Small Beer Press! "Like Jonathan Edwards, Stinson reads the natural world as well as Scripture, searching for meaning. But instead of the portents of an angry god, what she finds there is something numinous, complicated, and radiantly human." -Alison Bechdel
Single minded, indomitable Carline is on a fast bus to Texas. This is one ride you won't want to miss." -Alison Smith
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 intersection of body and soul.-Elizabeth McCracken
Susan Stinson's first novel is full of big, beautiful language and her main character, Char, is one of the best teenaged heroines I've ever met.-Judith Katz
Blog Posts
Blog posts about being Writer in Residence at Forbes Library
Letter to my young, queer self. As seen on The View.
Novel Excerpts
Blog Posts
Essays on Teaching as Community; Jonathan Edwards; Henry James; Fiction and Misdirection; and Poetry in Northampton for the Public Humanist, hosted by the Massachusetts Humanities Council.


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