Born Sleeping

This week’s other featured books, “A Family is a House,” by Dustin Pearson, “Orphans of Canland,” by Daniel Vitale and “A Brother’s Peace,” by Jan Linn, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.


THE BOOK: Born Sleeping


THE AUTHOR: H.C. Gildfind

THE EDITOR: Joe Squance

THE PUBLISHER: Miami University Press

SUMMARY:Of course, you think. Of course he lives. Because even if you could hide a pregnancy, or the death of a baby, you cannot hide—or kill—a ghost.”

By recounting one person’s real-time witnessing of a couple’s experience of stillbirth, BORN SLEEPING explores the ambivalence that lies at the heart of human relationships, the difficulty of comprehending others’ realities, the voyeurism of being on the outside of trauma and the disturbingly cool, detached eye of the writer

THE BACK STORY: This story is written in response to witnessing many women and couples suffering in silence after losing a baby in miscarriage or stillbirth. I noticed how shame and silence seem to be attached to these common and (often) entirely natural experiences, and I wanted to write a story that would help break the subject’s taboo. Such taboos are not only detrimental for individuals, but also hamper research and public education into stillbirth.

WHY THIS TITLE: “Born sleeping” is a euphemism for “stillborn” which is itself a euphemism for “born dead.” The idea of being “born sleeping” seemed to resonate with meanings and realities beyond itself, and the book explores these wider allusions.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Readers will gain insight into an experience that is often hidden by personal pain (and inexplicable shame) and by the nature of hospitals which have made death an alien (rather than natural) experience for humans. Furthermore, this story is told from the outside of the terrible experience of stillbirth and thus gives insight into the ambivalence and confusion people might feel when faced with others’ trauma – an ambivalence that is compounded when that pain is witnessed with the cool eye of the writer.


Born Sleeping reminds us… that one of the great gifts of literature is the creation of a complex interiority that encourages readerly self-reflection and reflection on a wider society. As well, the very tenor of the narrator’s mind—her constant questions, qualifications, self-castigations, her arduous struggle for new understandings—reminds us that literature as a category of writing typically complicates, rather than simplifies, the problematic business of living.” —  SUSAN MIDALIA

Born Sleeping is a strikingly blunt and intense account of a character’s emotional resistance and awakening as she confronts a family tragedy. The narrative develops like an extraordinary CT scan of the feeling mind and especially the feeling body, to reveal deepening layers of emotion and personal empathy. It is contemporary writing at its most unflinching.” —  PHILIP SALOM

“Gildfind’s novella is visceral, exhilarating and unsettling. Emotions are laid bare in all their ugly thrashing glory: live mercurial animals that for all their maudlin volatility manage to steer clear of heartbreak cliché and navel-gazing mind-anguish, instead manifesting materially and explicitly in the body and the environment. Fear is an ‘iris spontaneously propelled inwards’, memories grow ‘like bones and hair and nails’, and ‘the nursery air is swollen with expectant waiting ‘like the body of the mother.” –– GRACE YEE, re: Born Sleeping

“Remarkable for its compression and the startling detail with which it registers its world, Born Sleeping is about loss, but also about connection and love, and what it means to tell stories – overtly and unconsciously. Gildfind’s writing is rhythmic and lyrical, and always tight. This book is an impressive achievement.” — FIONA WRIGHT

“Knowing and not knowing is indicative of the many binaries at play here, apart from the overt life vs death. There is so much left unsaid about stillbirth. Grief silences the family and others don’t know what to say. Life goes on? This is the most unfair. The shock and despair are handled by Gildfind with sensitivity and poise, while still leaving room for liberating, relieving humour. This is exceptional writing.”—  BOB MOOREGood Reading Magazine, re: Born Sleeping

“Gildfind takes her stories to dark places, but it never feels graphic or exploitative. Wrapped up in all the darkness is always a strong connection back to human emotion, and the writing feels intensely aware of the troubling subject matter it is tackling.”— ELAINE MEADAniko Press, re: Born Sleeping

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Whilst I don’t have samples from this novella, my short stories, essays and book reviews can be found here:

AUTHOR PROFILE: H.C. GILDFIND is an author of fiction, essays and book reviews.  THE WORRY FRONT  (2018) includes the award-winning novella QUARRY, and BORN SLEEPING (2021) won the Miami University Press international novella competition.



PRICE: $20 – $25


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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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