Any short-story aficionado would be instantly drawn to a collection featuring writers of the caliber of Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor as editors, and 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), a hefty centennial celebration of the longtime Best American Short Stories series, presents an unparalleled cross-section of work written over the past century and gathered from throughout the country—and there’s a gorgeous cover, to boot. You’ll get a kick out of Moore’s characteristic wry humor and acerbic wisdom in her introduction. And for those of you who loved The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike, fear not: Moore and Pitlor have not repeated earlier selections. These stories are arranged chronologically, and every decade comes with a brief introduction that reacquaints readers with the stories’ wider socio-cultural significance and grounds them firmly in their historical moment. The commentary draws our attention, too, to the rise and fall of the literary journals that fostered many of the writers represented here and provided first homes for the works we reprint, reread, and revere today. This collection is a must-have for short story lovers and aspiring writers. Here, you’ll find the masters.
It’s only when you reach the end of Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees, that you find her author’s note: “This novel attempts to give Nigeria’s marginalized LGBTQ citizens a more powerful voice, and a place in our nation’s history.” And Okparanta delivers, fearlessly. Moving beyond the narratives of trauma and captivity—war, women’s bodies, sexuality, religious and cultural mores—Okparanta’s novel is subversively hopeful, an unflinching reclamation of unheard voices. Dear Reader, meet Ijeoma, a young girl with whom your heart will soar and break. As she comes into her own, again and again, I dare you to look away.
Don’t let the size of this book fool you; Justin Torres’ debut novel will leave you breathless in its wake. The novel’s unnamed narrator is the youngest of three brothers in a biracial New York family, but as the title suggests, it’s also the story of collective identity. It reminds us that we constantly negotiate our identities—gender, sexuality, race— in collusion and in conflict with our family. This family fights fiercely, loves fiercely. Torres juxtaposes innocence and malice, hate and love, violence and intimacy, only to transgress the thin boundaries which separate the two. Get ready to be caught in a riptide of sparse, tumbling prose, as you dip in and out of these sharp little stories.