Praise for SOFTENING


SOFTENING homes the nameless, gives voice to the embodied and unspeakable. These vignettes reclaim tender power over the body, not in spite of its vulnerability but because of it. We are porous, we bleed, we shed, yet equally we are open to laughter, milk, and light. Braley’s delicate prose shares softness in all its shades, presenting the invisible and daring us to “look!”

– Sarah Cavar, author of A Hole Walked In

Olivia Braley’s SOFTENING balances trauma and nostalgia on a razor’s edge as it sifts through memory to uncover the wisdom of the body. These echoing vignettes catalogue the power of narrative to alternately unmake and reclaim safety within a body that is remade under the gaze of others. This tender, incisive debut is a hall of mirrors, a marvel of shimmering language and insight that I will carry in my bones.

– Kate Finegan, Editor-in-Chief of Longleaf Review

SOFTENING is a brilliant refusal to flatten under all the words that shape and reshape a girl. Braley’s fierce prose confronts trauma by guiding us—not away from—but through a history of sensation and sound. Interrogating the limits of nostalgia, she relearns her girlhood through unshaved legs, half-grunted utterances, and milk bubbles. Yet Braley doesn’t just ask if reclaiming those softer places is a response to trauma: she insists upon it.

– Erin Vachon

Olivia Braley’s SOFTENING is a masterclass in the immersion of memory. Through the lucid lens of hindsight, Braley examines these formative moments, leads readers through them by the hand. What breaks through clouds of pain and regret is a sun that cannot be extinguished. SOFTENING is soft but not weak, transforming for none but the self.

– Isaura Ren, author of INTERLUCENT (2020)