Black History Month reading inspiration: short stories

While February is a short month — too short — I decided to celebrate this Black History Month by reading a short story a day by Black authors. I have been rotating through a variety of anthologies and collections, delighted by the discoveries within:

Heads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
My favorite story so far is a story in a tradition that I absolutely adore: the epistolary exchange between rivals that becomes increasingly passive-aggressive and ridiculously cruel. “Belles Lettres” finds two professional Black mothers whose daughters attend a predominantly white school trading barbs and insults in increasingly delicious intensity. The daughters at the center of these letters show up in future stories, adding extra dimension and reflection upon that exchange. The Los Angeles Review of Books called this collection “clever, cruel, hilarious, heartbreaking, and at times simply ingenious.”

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
This second collection of stories and a novella, after Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, was just announced as a finalist for the Story Prize. These stories have wonderful range and explore characters pursuing an apology for a relative’s false imprisonment, an artist’s apology tour, and the novella’s compelling exploration about what might be involved in actually grappling with the complexities of American history as it is excavated from the protection of white innocence.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
This collection announces a fresh, new talent. Each story showcases Philyaw as an author who knows how to bring humor and heart to every telling, exploring the lives and desires of Black women. Many stories center the experiences of queer women navigating their relationships and dreams. Philyaw’s debut is also a Story Prize finalist.

So We Can Glow by Leesa Cross-Smith
I love short short stories, and there are some wonderful flash fiction pieces in this, including a story about a woman who works in a diner because she loves the Neil Young song “Unknown Legend.” Cross-Smith’s novel This Close to Okay was just released earlier this month.

The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott
Like Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya’s Friday Black, Scott’s stories explore the surreal horror of racism. For instance, in “The Electric Joy of Service” a Robotic Personal Helper details how racism is baked into its Master’s design from its physical appearance to its speech; racism is a feature not a bug.

Reconstruction by Alaya Dawn Johnson
This collection, published by Small Beer Press (Kelly Link and Gavin Grant’s publishing house), begins with “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,”  about a Black woman who serves the vampires who have enslaved the humans on Earth for food and sport. I am looking forward to delving more into Johnson’s work here, and also recently enjoyed her novel Trouble the Saints.

~ posted by Misha S.

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