Back Talk


Danielle Lazarin - 2018
    In “Floor Plans,” a woman at the end of her marriage tests her power when she inadvertently befriends the neighbor trying to buy her apartment. In “Appetite,” a sixteen-year old grieving her mother’s death experiences first love and questions how much more heartbreak she and her family can endure. In “Dinosaurs,” a recent widower and a young babysitter help each other navigate how much they have to give—and how much they can take—from the people around them. Through stories that are at once empathetic and unexpected, these women and girls defiantly push the boundaries between selfishness and self-possession. With a fresh voice and bold honesty, Back Talk examines how narrowly our culture allows women to express their desires.

Look How Happy I'm Making You


Polly Rosenwaike - 2019
    Sharp and unsettling, wry and moving in its portrayal of love, friendship, and family, this collection expands the conversation about some of women's most intimate experiences.One woman struggling with infertility deals with the news that her sister is pregnant. Another woman nervous about her biological clock "forgets" to take her birth control and confronts the reality of becoming a single parent. A new mother with postpartum depression finds comfort with a much younger man. A psychologist who studies infant laughter faces her best friend's tragedy.Together, these twelve empathetic stories reveal pregnancy and new motherhood in all its anxiety and absurdity, darkness and wonder.

The Best American Short Stories 2018


Roxane Gay - 2018
    “I am looking for the artful way any given story is conveyed,” writes Roxane Gay in her introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2018, “but I also love when a story has a powerful message, when a story teaches me something about the world.” The artful, profound, and sometimes funny stories Gay chose for the collection transport readers from a fraught family reunion to an immigration detention center, from a psychiatric hospital to a coed class sleepover in a natural history museum. We meet a rebellious summer camper, a Twitter addict, and an Appalachian preacher—all characters and circumstances that show us what we “need to know about the lives of others.”

So We Can Glow: Stories


Leesa Cross-Smith - 2020
     Teenage girls sneak out on a summer night to meet their boyfriends by the train tracks. A woman escapes suffocating grief through a vivid fantasy life. Members of a cult form an unsettling chorus as they extol their passion for the same man. A love story begins over cabbages in a grocery store. A laundress' life is consumed by obsession for a famous baseball player. Two high school friends kiss all night and binge-watch Winona Ryder movies after the death of a sister. Leesa Cross-Smith's sensuous stories will drench readers in nostalgia for summer nights and sultry days, the intense friendships of teenage girls, and the innate bonds felt between women. She evokes the pangs of loss and motherhood, the headiness and destructive potential of desire, and the pure exhilaration of being female. The stories in So We Can Glow--some long, some gone in a flash, some told over text and emails--take the wild hearts of girls and women and hold them up so they can catch the light.We, moons --The Great Barrier Reef is dying but so are we --Unknown legend --Low, small --A tennis court --Tim Riggins would've smoked --Surreptitious, canary, chamomile --Winona forever --Girlheart cake with glitter frosting --Fast as you --Chateau Marmont, champagne, Chanel --Bearish --All that smoke howling blue --Pink bubblegum and flowers --Knock out the heart lights so we can glow --Get rowdy --Re: little doves --Out of the strong, something sweet --The lengths --Small and high up --Small are dark, some are light, summer melts --Bright --Dark and sweaty and dirty --Home safe --Teenage dreams time machine --Rope burns --Get Faye & Birdie --The Darl Inn --You should love the right things --And down we go! --Crepuscular --Stay and stay and stay --Two cherries under a lavender moon --When it gets warm --Boy smoke --Dandelion light --California, keep us --Cloud report --Downright --You got me --Eine kleine nachmusik --A girl has her secrets --Vincent

Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories


Jennifer Morales - 2015
    Czernicki, his community must find ways to bridge divisions between black and white, gay and straight, old and young. Set in one of the nation’s most highly segregated cities—Milwaukee, Wisconsin—Meet Me Halfway tells stories of connections in a community with a tumultuous and divided past. In nine stories told from diverse perspectives, Jennifer Morales captures a Rust Belt city’s struggle to establish a common ground and a collective vision of the future.             Morales gives life to multifaceted characters—white schoolteachers and senior citizens, Latino landlords, black and Puerto Rican teens, political activists, and Vietnam vets. As their lives unfold in these stories, we learn about Johnquell’s family—his grandparents’ involvement in the local Black Panther Party, his sister’s on-again, off-again friendship with a white classmate, and his aunt’s identity crisis as she finds herself falling in love with a woman. We also meet Johnquell’s mother, Gloria, and his school friend Taquan, who is struggling to chart his own future.             As an activist mother in the thick of Milwaukee politics, Morales developed a keen ear and a tender heart for the kids who have inherited the city’s troubled racial legacy. With a critical eye on promises unfulfilled, Meet Me Halfway raises questions about the notion of a “postracial” society and, with humor and compassion, lifts up the day-to-day work needed to get there. Runner-up, Short Story/Anthology, Midwest Book Awards Best books for public & secondary school libraries from university presses, American Library Association Wisconsin representative for “Great Lakes Reads,” Library of Congress Center for the Book and its affiliated Midwest centers Outstanding Achievement Award, Wisconsin Library Association (one of ten 2015 books chosen)

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us


Laura van den Berg - 2009
    A grieving missionary becomes obsessed with a creature rumoured to live in the forests of the Congo. And, in the title story, a young woman travelling with her scientist mother in Madagascar confronts her burgeoning sexuality and her dream of becoming a long-distance swimmer.

Barbara the Slut and Other People


Lauren Holmes - 2014
    She tackles eros and intimacy with a deceptively light touch, a keen awareness of how their nervous systems tangle and sometimes short-circuit, and a genius for revealing our most vulnerable, spirited selves. In “Desert Hearts,” a woman takes a job selling sex toys in San Francisco rather than embark on the law career she pursued only for the sake of her father. In “Pearl and the Swiss Guy Fall in Love,” a woman realizes she much prefers the company of her pit bull—and herself—to the neurotic foreign fling who won’t decamp from her apartment. In “How Am I Supposed to Talk to You?” a daughter hauls a suitcase of lingerie to Mexico for her flighty, estranged mother to resell there, wondering whether her personal mission—to come out—is worth the same effort. And in “Barbara the Slut,” a young woman with an autistic brother, a Princeton acceptance letter, and a love of sex navigates her high school’s toxic, slut-shaming culture with open eyes. With heart, sass, and pitch-perfect characters, Barbara the Slut is a head-turning debut from a writer with a limitless career before her.

This Is Paradise: Stories


Kristiana Kahakauwila - 2013
    Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, façade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua'i and the Big Island. In the gut-punch of “Wanle,” a beautiful and tough young woman wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps as a legendary cockfighter. With striking versatility, the title story employs a chorus of voices—the women of Waikiki—to tell the tale of a young tourist drawn to the darker side of the city’s nightlife. “The Old Paniolo Way” limns the difficult nature of legacy and inheritance when a patriarch tries to settle the affairs of his farm before his death. Exquisitely written and bursting with sharply observed detail, Kahakauwila’s stories remind us of the powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home.

You Think It, I'll Say It


Curtis Sittenfeld - 2017
    A high-powered lawyer honeymooning with her husband is caught off guard by the appearance of the girl who tormented her in high school. A shy Ivy League student learns the truth about a classmate’s seemingly enviable life.Curtis Sittenfeld has established a reputation as a sharp chronicler of the modern age who humanizes her subjects even as she skewers them. Now, with this first collection of short fiction, her “astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads” (The Washington Post) is showcased like never before. Throughout the ten stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It, Sittenfeld upends assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided.With moving insight and uncanny precision, Curtis Sittenfeld pinpoints the questionable decisions, missed connections, and sometimes extraordinary coincidences that make up a life. Indeed, she writes what we’re all thinking—if only we could express it with the wit of a master satirist, the storytelling gifts of an old-fashioned raconteur, and the vision of an American original.

Daddy


Emma Cline - 2020
    A man travels to his son’s school to deal with the fallout of a violent attack and to make sure his son will not lose his college place. But what exactly has his son done? And who is to blame? A young woman trying to make it in LA, working in a clothes shop while taking acting classes, turns to a riskier way of making money but will be forced to confront the danger of the game she’s playing. And a family coming together for Christmas struggle to skate over the lingering darkness caused by the very ordinary brutality of a troubled husband and father.These outstanding stories examine masculinity, male power and broken relationships, while revealing – with astonishing insight and clarity – those moments of misunderstanding that can have life-changing consequences. And there is an unexpected violence, ever-present but unseen, in the depiction of the complicated interactions between men and women, and families. Subtle, sophisticated and displaying an extraordinary understanding of human behaviour, these stories are unforgettable.

The Dinner Party and Other Stories


Joshua Ferris - 2017
    Eleven stories by Joshua Ferris, many of which were first published in The New Yorker, on topics such as the modern tribulations of marriage, ambition, and the fear of missing out.The dinner party --The valetudinarian --The pilot --A night out --The breeze --Ghost town choir --More abandon (or whatever happened to Joe Pope?) --Fragments --The stepchild --Life in the heart of the dead --A fair price

The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009


Laura Furman - 2009
    Henry Prize Stories 2009 features unforgettable tales in settings as diverse as post-war Vietnam, a luxurious seaside development in Cape Town, an Egyptian desert village, and a permanently darkened New York City. Also included are essays from the eminent jurors on their favorite stories, observations from the winners on what inspired them, and an extensive resource list of magazines.

Show Them a Good Time


Nicole Flattery - 2019
    Show Them a Good Time tells the stories of women slotted away into restrictive roles: the celebrity's girlfriend, the widower's second wife, the lecherous professor's student, the corporate employee. And yet, the genius of Flattery's characters is to blithely demolish the boundaries of these limited and limiting social types with immense complexity and caustic intelligence. Nicole Flattery's women are too ferociously mordant, too painfully funny to remain in their places.In this fiercely original and blazingly brilliant debut, Flattery likewise deconstructs the conventions of genre to serve up strange realities: In Not the End Yet, Flattery probes the hilarious and wrenching ambivalence of Internet dating as the apocalypse nears; in Sweet Talk, the mysterious disappearance of a number of local women sets the scene for a young girl to confront the dangerous uncertainties of her own sexuality; in this collection's center piece, Abortion, A Love Story, two college students in a dystopian campus reconfigure the perilous stories of their bodies in a fraught academic culture to offer a subversive, alarming, and wickedly funny play that takes over their own offstage lives. And yet, however surreal or richly imagined the setting, Flattery always shows us these strange worlds from startlingly unexpected angles, through an unforgettable cast of brutally honest, darkly hilarious women and girls.Like the stories of Mary Gaitskill, Miranda July, Lorrie Moore, Joy Williams, and Ottessa Moshfegh, Show Them a Good Time is the work of a profoundly resonant and revelatory literary voice – at once spiky, humane, achingly hilarious-- that is sure to echo through the literary culture for decades to come.

Refund


Karen E. Bender - 2015
    Who has it. Who doesn’t. How you get it. How you don’t.In Refund, Bender creates an award-winning collection of stories that deeply explore the ways in which money and the estimation of value affect the lives of her characters. The stories in Refund reflect our contemporary world—swindlers, reality show creators, desperate artists, siblings, parents — who try to answer the question: What is the real definition of worth?In “Theft,” an eighty-year-old swindler, accustomed to tricking people for their money, boards a cruise ship to see if she can find something of true value—a human connection. In “Anything for Money,” the creator of a reality show is thrown into the real world when his estranged granddaughter reenters his life in need of a new heart; and in the title story, young artist parents in downtown Manhattan escape the attack on 9/11 only to face a battle over their subletted apartment with a stranger who might have lost more than only her deposit.Set in contemporary America, these stories herald a work of singular literary merit by an important writer at the height of her power.

Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale


Nancy Hale - 2019
    A twenty-something New Yorker transplanted to a small Virginia community who boldly befriends the town pariah. A New England widow in search of alcohol and excitement while babysitting her grandson. A Maryland socialite who has built a secret bomb shelter that becomes the center of her imaginative life. These are some of the characters who inhabit Nancy Hale’s lush fiction. Haunting, vivid, and wonderfully subversive, Hale’s stories typically concern women recognizable to all of us—sometimes fragile, possibly wicked, deceptively ordinary, navigating their way uncertainly through life. Nancy Hale was one of the most accomplished short story artists of her era, winner of ten O. Henry Awards and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker from the 1930s to the 1960s. But by the time of her death in 1988, this remarkable writer, so far ahead of her time in her depiction of complex women, was largely forgotten. Now Lauren Groff reintroduces this modern master with a selection of twenty-five of her best stories— brilliant short fiction that encompasses childhood and adolescence, marriage and motherhood, desire and infidelity, madness and memory. Where the Light Falls reveals Hale as a gifted stylist—a painter in light and shadow—and an acute observer of modern American life.