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 Washington Library Association met online this year instead of in Spokane. Most years there is a panel focused on Washington authors with the cheeky title “WA Do I Read Next?” This year I had the pleasure of joining this panel event online with other librarians and local authors to celebrate recently published books by authors from our fair state.
Here is a list of many of the books we talked about in this panel, and here are just some of the books I had the honor of sharing with the audience:
88 Names, by Matt Ruff The new HBO show Lovecraft Country produced by Jordan Peele and Misha Green may have brought more attention to Matt Ruff, but he has been quietly writing smart, genre-bending stories for years now. 88 Names is a riff on virtual reality, where John Chu makes his living as a “sherpa” in Multi-player Role Playing Games, where the rich come to rack up points and prestige fast. This is an offbeat cyber-thriller for fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Ready Player Two.Continue reading “WA Do I Read Next? (Part 1)”
When the library closed for the pandemic on March 13th and I contemplated the altered days ahead, I had a revelation. I decided that I would tackle a goal I had long held–to read more short stories.
Every year I feel hard pressed to read enough of the newly-published fiction and nonfiction to feel grounded in my work as a readers’ advisor. Not to mention all of the older books I also keep meaning to get to, or that I hear about from colleagues and patrons. I used to think that I didn’t have time for short stories or that I preferred novels. Where did that idea come from?
Yes, short stories can slow you down. You have to make space for the world a short story creates, and each story, even in one collection or anthology, has a different pace, tone, cadence, and perspective that you are thrown into. Short stories are the gems of literature–they can be rough cut or burnished, but each story offers a prism through which you will discover a new voice, perspective, or world. When I thought that I did not like short stories or did not have time for them I was wrong, and I was missing out. Continue reading “Lessons learned from reading a short story a day”
Queer literature is booming right now, with more and better representation of LGBTQIA+ characters every year. Here are some recent historical novels and historical/alternate history fantasy to check out. First, some historical novels with queer protagonists:
The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco is one gritty historical debut. It has a pretty fast-paced bent, introducing Alma, a bi undercover agent who routinely dresses and acts as a man, who loves fighting and collecting lovers, and gets into plenty of scrapes. Set in 1887 Port Townsend, WA, it centers on a group of opium smugglers and climbers on the make, with a widowed woman of color mastermind, Delphine, pulling strings behind the scenes. A little too violent for my tastes, but it all worked for the character and grimy setting. Here, too, is an article about the seedy Port Townsend history that inspired the novel. Continue reading “Queering Historical Fiction & Historical Fantasy”