Short Stories: Tiny Windows into Other Worlds

During this pandemic, I’ve heard from so many people – normally avid readers of long novels – that they are having trouble focusing on full-length books. I, too, have found myself in the same boat. Thank goodness for short stories!  Sometimes I forget about these gems, but quite a few book groups (including two that I belong to) have been re-discovering these little powerhouses. As Neil Gaiman says, “Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.” 

Short stories are also a great way to introduce yourself to unfamiliar authors or genres. For example, I’ve been intrigued by the growing number of Chinese science fiction authors whose works are being translated into English, but I didn’t know where to start. Then I saw the book Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation and had to check it out. The stories cover quite a gamut of moods and topics, ranging from a melancholic tale about artificial intelligence set in the near future to a time travel story set in an alternate 10th century China. Each story is prefaced by a brief description of the author’s life and work, and further context is provided by several essays about Chinese science fiction past and present. 

Closer to home, the stories in Sabrina & Corina are set in or around Denver, Colorado. Most of the characters are women of indigenous and Latina descent, and there is some overlap of characters between stories, lending the collection a cohesive novel-like feel (in a way that reminds me of Canadian writer Alice Munro’s short story collections). Although there are some heavy themes (abuse, trauma) in these stories, the characters and writing shine through with a moving strength and grace.

The stories in Edwidge Danticat’s collection Everything Inside take place in Florida and Haiti, and focus on the lives of immigrants and first-generation Americans. These polished tales explore a variety of relationships – between parents and children, between friends, and between lovers (and ex-lovers). If you like listening to stories, the audio version of this collection is particularly nice.

For more short story suggestions, check out the books on this Seattle Picks: Short Stories book list (for stories you can access online, scroll to the end of the list).

Enjoy your journeys into other worlds!

~ Posted by Paige C.

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