Forbidden Cities, short stories by New Zealand author Paula Morris
Penguin New Zealand, 2008
Finalist, Commonwealth Prize 2009

In Iceland, Ani told the boys, ‘when it doesn’t snow, they call it Red Christmas.’

‘Why?’ Henry’s mouth glistened with fritter grease.

‘Not sure,’ she said. It was something she’d heard at school, from a geography teacher.

He’d been to Iceland to look at their volcanoes and glaciers, because they were different, in some way, from the volcanoes and glaciers here. Ani knew what volcanoes looked like: ordinary green lumps, neutered and serene, lay all over the city. But she’d never seen a glacier. They were all far away, somewhere south of the Bombay hills.

‘Red Christmas,’ said Tama. ‘We have one of those every year. We don’t need to go to Iceland.

From Sunset Boulevard to the beaches of Auckland, from the Bund in Shanghai to the banks of the Danube, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Hammersmith Flyover, from post-Katrina New Orleans to Fire Island – the stories in Forbidden Cities explore places of escape, transgression, ambition, delusions, and desire.

Reviews

“[Her work] slips effortlessly and naturally across time zones and hemispheres, criss-crossing themes of race and culture with a cool, knowing style and claiming an ethnic territory that’s all her own.”
– Kirsty Gunn

“One of the best short story collections written by a New Zealander in years … These stories are fresh, engaging, and tinged with all those raw emotions that make for excellent fiction.”
– New Zealand Herald

“Betrayal, unsatisfactory sex, the unbridgeable distances between people (even – perhaps especially – between members of the same family), these are the themes that tie this impressive collection together … Morris knows what she is doing. She doesn’t waste time explaining. The reader often has to wait till well into the story before learning where it is set, and who the characters are in relation to one another. This is not mystification for its own sake, but rather a consummate craftsperson operating at the top of her game.”
– Elspeth Sandys, New Zealand Books

Forbidden Cities establishes her as one of those rare writers who can tackle both long and short fiction successfully.”
Otago Daily Times