A Short Story Collection by an Author from a Marginalized Community
By Kristen Johnston
From personal experience, I find that short story collections are often overlooked when compared to lengthier works of fiction. People have told me that they believe short stories are for people with shorter attention spans, or people who don’t care to get to really know a character. But, I would highly disagree.
Short story collections are the perfect way to engage in beautifully written fiction, get an in-depth insight into what makes someone tick, and have it all wrapped up within 30 pages. These small snapshots into a character’s life can pack an unexpected punch. It’s the purest example of a little bit going a long way.
The series of vignettes seamlessly strung together in a short story collection can help provide a greater understanding of the world, a group of people, or a moment in time. They can quickly absorb you into a fantasy world, and then take you right back to reality.
In this day and age, short stories are easily digestible and can provide you with a much-needed brief escape from your everyday life and the world around you.
How to Pronounce Knife, by Souvankham Thammavongsa (Available on Audible)
This 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner can introduce (or re-introduce) readers to the power and magic of a short story. This collection of stories focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. Thammavongsa paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values.
We Two Alone, by Jack Wang
Set on five continents and spanning nearly a century, We Two Alone traces the long arc and evolution of the Chinese immigrant experience. From the vulnerable and disenfranchised to the educated and elite, the characters in this extraordinary collection embody the diversity of the diaspora at key moments in history and in contemporary times.
Maame, by Elizabeth Allua Vaah
In Aakonu, a small village on the coast of Ghana, life is a constant tussle between the reality of the mundane and the superstitions presided over by the local priestess. In this setup, girls in their puberty can only look forward to marriage–often to men old enough to be their fathers and already with other wives. Ahu, a young widow of eighteen, has no choice but to marry an older relative. But she refuses to have more children and returns to Aakonu. Overcoming all odds, she sets up a village eatery and raises her children, educating them all and finally sending the eldest girl, Bomo, to university. Her rebellion and success are an inspiration for the generation of girls growing up, to reach out beyond the limits imposed upon them by ancient tradition. Through these beautifully told, lyrical stories about herself, her daughter Bomo, the beautiful but tragic Ebela, and the childless Aso, and others, Ahu introduces us to her community, and the beliefs and customs that keep its families together but in the end also stifle its girls? futures.
You Are Not What We Expected, by Sidura Ludwig
This stunningly intimate collection of stories is an exquisite portrait of a Jewish community — the secular and religious families who inhabit it and the tensions that exist there — that illuminates the unexpected ways we remain connected during times of change.
When Uncle Isaac moves back from L.A. to help his sister, Elaine Levine, care for her suddenly motherless grandchildren, he finds himself embroiled in even more drama than he would like in their suburban neighbourhood. Meanwhile, a nanny miles from her own family in the Philippines, cares for a young boy who doesn’t fit in at school. A woman in mid-life contends with the task of cleaning out the house in which she grew up, while her teenage son struggles with why his dad moved out. And down the street, a mother and her two daughters prepare for a wedding and transitions they didn’t see coming.
Spanning fifteen years in the lives of a multi-generational family and their neighbours, this remarkable collection is an intimate portrait of a suburban Jewish community by a writer with a keen eye for detail, a gentle sense of humour, and an immense literary talent.