Renee Simms is an associate professor of African American Studies and contributing faculty to English Studies at University of Puget Sound. Originally from Detroit, she received her B.A. in literature from University of Michigan, a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Arizona State University. Her writing appears in Callaloo, The Oxford American, Ecotone, Literary Hub, Southwest Review, North American Review, The Rumpus, Salon and elsewhere. She is a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellow, a 2018 Bread Loaf fiction fellow, and has received support from Kimbilio Fiction, Ragdale, Vermont Studio Center, and PEN Center. Her debut story collection is Meet behind Mars (Wayne State University Press).
Renee Simms is an incredible storyteller gifted with both wit and wisdom. She's not afraid of the hard questions, yet this work brims with hope and heart. Meet Behind Mars marks an exciting debut of a vibrant new voice in American literature.
—Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow
Renee Simms' Meet Behind Mars is an eclectic, emotionally rich, funny, quirky and grounded debut from a fresh voice. It is truly a pleasure to spend time among such a diverse roster of African American characters in settings ranging from Katrina-devastated New Orleans to the South China Sea. In these fictions, that are, by turns, realist, fabulist and satirical, women and men search out life's meaning through work, sex, travel and family in finely observed moments full of quiet urgency.
— Asali Solomon, author of Disgruntled
With penetrating wit and precise literary detail, Renee Simms gives us eleven dazzling stories that uplift, entertain and welcome her readers into the emotional and spiritual "inner spaces" of diverse, unforgettable characters.
— Melissa Pritchard, author of A Solemn Pleasure
Renee Simms writes from the heart of our shared contemporary moment. These stories are both easy and hard to read, familiar and frustrating both, this mix compelling throughout. These are African-American lives fully offered, and women’s lives in particular. As readers, we cannot emerge from this book unmoved.”
— Alberto Rios, author of A Small Story about the Sky
"I feel like I can't tell one story about a giant mustard penis because it's not about a mustard penis only, but about all of these incidents together, in context, and through time." So begins the title story in Renee Simms's debut short story collection, Meet Behind Mars, a revealing look at how geography, memory, ancestry, and desire influence our personal relationships.
In many of her stories, Simms exposes her own interest in issues concerning time and space. For example, in "Rebel Airplanes," an L.A. engineer works by day on city sewers and by night on R-C planes that she yearns to launch into the cosmos. The character-driven stories in Meet Behind Mars offer beautiful insight into the emotional lives of caretakers, auto workers, dancers, and pawn shop employees. In "High Country," a frustrated would-be novelist considers ditching her family in the middle of the desert. In "Dive," an adoptee returns to her adoptive home, still haunted by histories she does not know. Simms writes from the voice of women and girls who struggle under structural oppression and draws from the storytelling tradition best represented by writers like Edward P. Jones, whose characters have experiences that are specific to black Americans living in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. One instance of this is in "The Art of Heroine Worship," in which black families integrate into a white suburb of Detroit in the 1970s.
The tales in this collection span forty years and two continents. The stories range in structure from epistolary to traditionally structured realism, with touches of absurdity, humor, and magic.