Dantiel W. Moniz

Dantiel W. Moniz

She // Her // Hers

[ID: A Black woman with long locs pulled back from her face and a light-brown complexion sits at a desk in front of a bookshelf backdrop. She wears a pair of gold mesh-work earrings and green overalls with a black crop top underneath, baring her sleeve of colorful tattoos.]

Portrait photo by Elizabeth Pedinotti Haynes.

Jacksonville, FL
2024 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by Mellon Foundation.

Dantiel W. Moniz is the recipient of a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction, and fellowships from Yaddo, Lighthouse Works, MacDowell, among others. Moniz’s debut collection, Milk Blood Heat was a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and The Story Prize. Her writing has appeared in the Paris Review, Harper’s Bazaar, American Short Fiction, Tin House, and elsewhere. Moniz is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she teaches fiction.


“Milk Blood Heat”

“Pink is the color for girls,” Kiera says, so she and Ava cut their palms and let their blood drip into a shallow bowl filled with milk, watching the color spread slowly on the surface, small red flowers blooming. Ava studies Kiera. How she holds her hand steady — as if used to slicing herself open — while sunlight falls into the kitchen window and fills her curls with glow. Her mouth is a slim, straight line, but her eyes are wide, green-yellow, unblinking. Strange eyes, Ava’s mother always says with the same pinched grimace usually reserved for pulling plugs of their hair from the bathtub drain.

The girls are at Kiera’s because her parents believe in “freedom of expression,” and they can climb trees and catch frogs and lie on the living room floor with the cushions pulled off the couch, watching cartoons and eating sugary cereal from metal mixing bowls for hours. At Ava’s house they are tomboys, they are lazy, they are getting on her mother’s last nerve. Her mother doesn’t approve of Kiera, but they’ve been friends for two months — late August, when the eighth grade started — ever since Kiera came up to her during gym and told her: I feel like I’m drowning, and though there was no water in sight, Ava knew what she meant. It was the type of feeling she herself sometimes got, a heaviness, an airlessness, that was hard to talk about, especially with her mother. Trying to name it was like pulling up words from her belly, bucketful after bucketful, all that effort but they never quite meant what she wanted them to.