Mecca Jamilla Sullivan’s “Wolfpack” is not a story for the faint of heart. It is not inherently complicated; the language is straightforward, the syntax largely basic, and the plot mostly linear. The real trouble lies in its pure, emotional telling of a story strongly influenced by horrible reality. In all of this shocking (though unfortunately not surprising) tragedy, however, one emotion is almost never present: fear. Though the narrator dreads prison and resents many of the people that circumstances have put her with, she never expresses true terror in the face of danger.

When the man who degrades her and her friends begins to attack, the narrator does not express any fear. Many would be scared for their safety and the safety of their friends, but she stands unafraid of the man, though she is furious. Similarly, when she reflects on the origins of her knife that her friend uses to stab the man, the narrator remembers how her mother gave her the knife so she could protect herself after a woman in a similar situation was murdered. Throughout this description, she is not afraid for her life, and the language she uses does not reflect the desperate actions of the fearful. Instead, she talks like the knife is a practical measure, rather than a last resort in the throughs of danger.

Her lack of fear is not a coincidence; many women in somewhat similar situations are depicted as fearful, and purely victims of circumstance. While this is not necessarily negative on their character, Sullivan’s portrayal shows a strength that is often neglected. These women may have had terrible circumstances, but they were not afraid.