A novel by Kirsten Kaschock

September 20, 2011 • 6 x 9 • 330 pages • 978-1-56689-275-9

A daring novel about families, artistic responsibility, and tragedy.

Sisters Lark and Clef have spent their lives honing their bodies for sleight, an interdisciplinary art form that combines elements of dance, architecture, acrobatics, and spoken word. After being estranged for several years, the sisters are reunited by a deceptive and ambitious sleight troupe director named West who needs the sisters’ opposing approaches to the form—Lark is tormented and fragile, frightened by the art she is compelled to make; Clef is driven to excel.

But when a disturbing mass murder makes national headlines, West seizes on the event as inspiration for his new performance, one that threatens to destroy the very artists performing it.

In language that is at once unsettling and hypnotic, Sleight explores ideas of performance, gender, and family to ask the question: what is the role of art in the face of unthinkable tragedy?

About the Author

Kirsten Kaschock has earned degrees from Yale University, the University of Iowa, Syracuse University, and the University of Georgia. The author of two collections of poetry, Unfathoms and A Beautiful Name for a Girl, she resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she is currently a doctoral fellow in dance at Temple University.


“An unusual, dreamlike tale. . . . Gothic and intense, this fully imagined yet partly private work of storytelling is . . . powerfully original.” Kirkus

“Kaschock . . . weaves a tight story. Her inventive, fragmented style scrambles subjects and objects to squeeze the inner world of artistic process onto the page. . . . Sleight is a disgorged dream, painstakingly crystallized; when it ends, you’ll want tickets to the show.” Philadelphia Inquirer

“Kaschock’s work stands out for the originality of its concepts, narrative structure, and, particularly, language, as the author redefines words in relation to her art and boldly breaks from traditional grammatical constructions. Kaschock’s intimate knowledge of dance is an asset, helping her bring the sleight performers vividly to life. . . . Sleight is to the traditional fiction narrative what alternative music is to mainstream pop. Readers who enjoy the challenge of an innovative, unconventional style will take pleasure in this selection.” Library Journal

“Kaschock is a sensitive writer, with an uncanny empathy for her characters—particularly when dealing with the limits of the body. . . . A moving portrait of mental illness, of sibling love and rivalry, and above all, of the destructive power of great art over its performers.” Barnes & Noble Review

Sleight features startlingly innovative storytelling, and is as fascinating as it is disturbing.” Largehearted Boy

“A provocative debut. . . . By transforming the unseen into the real, concepts become an unsettling reality. Always disorienting yet fascinating to watch unfold, Sleight provides a deep examination of art and those who engage with its ever-shifting presence.” NewPages

“Absorbing. . . . Kaschock’s stylized prose requires the reader to focus, to be drawn into her tale of the ways art can and cannot affect audiences and artists while seeking to reflect and redefine the world. . . . The book is not be taken lightly, but is worthy of being taken up.” Cedar Rapids Gazette

“There isn’t anyone like any single one of us, but the way there is no one like Kirsten Kaschock is a different thing.” —Cheryl Strayed, The Rumpus

“It’s increasingly rare for any book to really surprise you. Sleight does more: it astonishes. A rigorous, unsentimental, strange and beautiful work.” —China Miéville

Sleight is either disturbingly enjoyable or enjoyably disturbing—I can't decide which. What’s certain is that Kirsten Kaschock is a wildly talented writer. You should read this book.” —Adam Levin

“With grace and whip-smart wit, Kirsten Kaschock is a gift from the gods of young talent.” —Mary Karr

“I love this book. It is an acutely literary sci-fi rhapsody about inter-dimensional dance, and the tortured relationships between the dancers. It is also a subtle critique of our age. Kaschock accurately replicates our societal anxieties, our inexpressible longings, our blind spots, our terrors, both holy and profane, and even, thank God, our joys. The novel’s language hums like a Buddhist gong, and the characters are at the same time sublimely mythic and frighteningly real, almost palpable. There is genuine magic in her novel.” —Reginald McKnight

“The novel is by turns intriguing, mysterious, and lovely, much like the art of sleight.” —Puerto Del Sol