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A Guide to Being Born: Stories
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A Guide to Being Born: Stories

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  766 ratings  ·  143 reviews
Reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell—an enthralling new collection that uses the world of the imagination to explore the heart of the human condition.

Major new literary talent Ramona Ausubel combines the otherworldly wisdom of her much-loved debut novel, No One Is Here Except All of Us, with the precision of the short-story form. A Guide toBeing Born is organized
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published May 2nd 2013 by Riverhead Hardcover
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Maya Lang
Beautifully written, lush stories that are sobering, heart-breaking, mesmerizing, shocking. Two of my favorite things: 1) I was full of admiration for the author's ability to connect micro and macro. A small detail lingers and becomes its own moment, but without being overdone. (Often, the sentences are perfect.) You feel the whole world of the story contained in a moment between two characters or in an observation, but the "big picture," the macro, is never neglected. Each story feels perfectly ...more
Rachel Aloise
At the flick of a page these stories can morph from the weird and wondrous to truths, raw and unflinching. I was moved to near tears more than once. Ausubel's prose is beautifully balanced as drops of magical realism are distilled into emotionally gripping tales. I readily suspended disbelief at the growth of love-arms in the evocative 'Tributaries'or other anatomical oddities in the devastating'Poppyseed'. Only a couple of stories failed to affect me in the same way-hence the four stars- but th ...more
Hayley DeRoche
Belated review since I had to find this quote from a professor giving a speech to sleeping faculty in a darkened auditorium, except it's really just a sad little speech to his dead wife. Which sounds morbid and contrite when I explain it that way, but the story itself is actually quite quietly luminous.

" 'I have been weeding around the Johnny-jump-ups and watering the apricot tree. Yesterday the poppies were looking droopy, so I gave them extra water and they perked right up. It was amazing how
Timothy O'Donnell
I have given myself several days to digest this collection of short fiction by Ramona Ausubel. I'm not one for reviews but I wanted to say something because this book made me do something I've never done before when reading a story.

There is a moment in one of the stories (I won't name it, you'll have to read for yourself) where I audibly gasped. The air in my lungs vanished. My heart sank. It sounds hyperbolic but I was literally heartbroken for a split second. Then the story resolved in a way w
This was a collection of short stories which makes it hard to assign a star rating. Some stories were 4 stars, some were 2, and one I would give a 5. So, three stars seemed the most fair. Warning - these stories are very odd. Few of them were completely grounded in reality, and some were so strange, I felt like I was constantly saying, "What?!" For example, in one story, a man who is a little obsessed with and overwhelmed by his wife's pregnancy wakes up to find he has grown a set of small drawe ...more
You CAN judge a book by its cover. Perhaps that's not fair to Ausubel, whose book stands on merits far beyond its colorful, fantastic cover. But that's what first attracted me to this book, and happily, the contents within proved to be every bit as fantastic and engaging.

I was enchanted by the opening tale of a ship carrying a cargo of puzzled grandmothers. Where were they? How had they gotten there? Where were they going? The dream haze of the story slowly clears as one of the grandmothers reco
I liked this, but it never tipped over into love. Not quite sure why. It had everything I liked - poetic prose, just enough magic realism to thrill me, beautiful language. It just didn't move me like I wanted it to. (I think this might be because I'm still under the spell of Safe as Houses and for a while nothing will be able to live up.)

The stories were, for the most part, quite lovely, however. The grandmothers crowded on the boat in "Safe Passage." The parents longing for their child to both
Cristina Garcia
What a book, WHAT A BOOK.

As soon as I read the first story in this anthology, I knew I'd love it. It was rich in symbols and interesting ideas.

And can I just say that I want to be Miss C?

This book gets really out there sometimes like the pregnancy story that has a giraffe peek out of the girl's womb. I hated that story, by the way. But it makes you really think about what's going on, what it all means in the story and in your life -- at least I did.

It's only 200 pages, but it's so thick with
Copy received through Goodreads’ First Reads program.

It must be difficult to be a writer with any sort of a fabulist/surrealist/magical/fantastical bent these days, as reviews of your work are pretty much just countdowns to a lazy reference to Karen Russell. The back of this book saves reviewers that trouble by describing these stories as “[r]eminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell,” and these stories certainly have a strong fantasy element that should appeal to Russell’s fans. However, fo
Ausubel has birthed a thing of rare beauty with this one.

Whether by making anthropomorphic idioms literal à la magical realism or contrasting ordinary folks with the extraordinary-but-possible, each of these stories embody what it means to be human in the here and now and hear the sound of the universe affirming one's every breath.

Definitely worth your time. Minus one star due to some of the stories being less stellar than the rest, but the good ones make this book worth picking up.
Rebecca Fortes
Immediately and irrevocably my new favorite collection of short stories. The premise of each story is absurd, but still believable and ultimately revealing about the truths we all create for ourselves. I love love loved this book.
Kati Heng
Ramona Ausubel’s A Guide to Being Born is, among so many things, absolutely true to its cover. The image, compelling strange, hippie consists of a collage anatomical diagrams of the heart, a large egg growing like an infant inside a woman, surrounded by a menagerie of flowers, the lady’s hands pointed as if harnessing the power of her chakras and inborn strength. Basically, everything you’ll feel from reading each of these stories.

My experience with this book? I first heard about it from my Nylo
Full Stop
Jun 10, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: spring-2013

Review by Emily Oppenheimer

All personal and social histories are informed by differing understandings of time and life cycle. In secular western communities, for example, we tend to speak about our lives as beginning on one specific date (our birthday) and ending on another: the day our bodies finally “give up the ghost.” But in other cultures, an individual’s story may begin with a creation myth or the birth of their grandparents. It may begin the moment
Andrew Pagano
I want to drop this off at your house. I'll leave it in the mailbox if you're not home. Haven't been so excited about a new author in years.

I bought this book after reading Ausubel's story "You Can Find Love Now," which was about a cyclops creating an honest online dating profile. Many of the stories in this collection similarly blend the fantastic with the every day. Also, they are insanely bizarre.

In "Poppyseed," the father of a developmentally and physically disabled girl gets a job writing
My brother picked this book out for me based on my liking of short stories (particularly Jhumpa Lahiri). I give it an overall 4, but I thought the collection was somewhat inconsistent. I really enjoyed "Safe Passage", because though it was a little bit fantastical - the fact that it was unclear if the woman was dead/dying/dreaming made the fantasy make sense in the context of the story, and I just really loved it. I also really enjoyed "Poppyseed". I felt like it really exposed the love the pare ...more
i seriously only read this because the author is named ramona & my daughter is named ramona, & the title of the book is "a guide to being born," & my daughter know. born. dumb, i know. i'm just trying to walk you through my thought process here. plus i think i read a good review of her most recent novel in "the new yorker", maybe?

this was a collection of short stories. kind of aimee bender-ish, in terms of fantastical things happening, like a man growing a chest of drawers
I wavered between giving 4 and 5 stars. I love short stories and these really grabbed my attention. But I had to go with 5 stars simply for the first story alone - it was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.
Kivrin Engle
Well-crafted stories, both heartfelt & humanistic, surreal & surprising. Ramona Ausubel sits at the same fabulist fiction table with my other favorites of this genre: Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, and Karen Russell.
Absolutely fantastic collection of short stories, in which I experienced a myriad of emotions! Great read, loved it!
I won this through the Goodreads First read program. Thanks!!
A Guide to Being Born: Stories is a surprisingly refreshing collection of smart, dreamy stories. I was three stories in when I ordered Ausubel's novel. I haven't read writing like this in a long time. The closest I can think to compare her style to is that of Judy Budnitz (although Budnitz tends to be harsher, using hard images). Very, very enjoyable. I know I will remember some of these stories for a long time. I'm still kind of enthralled with the first one, Safe Passage, and that wasn't even ...more
This was an interesting collection of short stories and like most collections a mixed bag. There were some that I loved that were full of whimsy and so unbelievable but yet an amazingly creative idea that would be awesome if it were true- growing arms for each love you experience for example or the girl who was pregnant and completely convinced that what she was growing was not human at all. Then there were some that left me wondering what was the point. I would recommend this to anyone even tho ...more
Sarah Milner
This was a set of stories I found myself constantly walking away from, and then having to remind myself to finish. Some stories were amazing - poignant, thoughtful, loving, even as they were fantastical and magically dreamy. Others were fine; I got the point, understood what she was going for, and it did not reel me in. One had me shaking my head, and audibly stating "This is stupid. Really, really stupid."

It wasn't a huge time investment, especially as there were 15 or so short stories - you c
Apr 12, 2014 Abby added it
I am looking down the page of Goodreads reviews at female name after female name. Which is somewhat confusing. The title doesn't rule out any reader I can think of.

Ausubel titles her sections "birth," "gestation," "conception," "love," in that order. These are body stories, because the birth process is about the most physical thing that can possibly happen to a person, but also because Ausubel takes all the feelings and turns them into physicalities. In some ways this book is exactly what you wo
Nov 02, 2014 Anita added it
Loved a number of stories in the collection (Safe Passage, Poppyseed, Atria, Chest of Drawers, and Magniloquence) - they have a twisted beauty that is hard to top. Safe Passage is haunting and mysterious - a boat of grandmothers. Poppyseed was impossible to put down - about a couple and their disabled child. Atria is about a teenager who is raped and gives birth to what she thinks is an animal. Chest of Drawers is about the husband of a pregnant woman who gets drawers (physically in his body). A ...more
My criteria for 5-star short story collections:

1) At least two stories must really dazzle me
2) I can at no point feel bored while reading any of the stories

Ausubel's collection starts out great: "Safe Passage" and "Atria" and "Chest of Drawers" are all really excellent stories, with "Chest" in particular reminding me in every good way of Aimee Bender. But after that, A Guide to Being Born slumps; I often felt uninterested in the storie. The book doesn't manage to recover until "Tributaries," whi
*Really 3.5 stars.
"The bench looks out at the horizon, that line drawn by the eye to make an ending where there is not one" (3).
"The sea was a flat sheet going on until it couldn't anymore, until the sky pinned it down" (9).
“I read the newspaper and found out about more of the continued misery” (29).
“In her mind, was she riding on the back of a zebra over a stretch of land so vast it would be days before she encountered someone who corrected her story, made her put her seat belt on, bribed her t
Jaclyn Michelle

I received my copy of A Guide to Being Born back in April, and I am KICKING myself it took me so long to crack it open. Ramona Ausubel’s collection of thematically linked short stories is delightfully bizarre and unlike anything I’ve ever read. Each piece was distinct and struck its own unique chord, yet cohesive with the rest of the collection. Hauntingly, achingly beautiful, these stories stayed with me long after I finished the final page. A few of my f
Jenny Shank
A world of hunger and desire: A Review of Ramona Ausubel's "A Guide to Being Born"
REVIEW - From the September 02, 2013 High Country News issue

Ramona Ausubel writes experimental literary fiction that isn't chilly. Often when innovations in form and plot are a writer's main aim, emotion and humanity are neglected. But each of the stories in Ausubel's collection A Guide to Being Born has heart and characters worth rooting for, no matter how improbable their s
Mar 30, 2013 Jen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013, arc
This book of short stories is interesting, well-written, and is very imaginative.
In the first story we find grandmothers who have found themselves suddenly on a ship in the middle of the ocean. With no one else on the ship. This story focuses on one grandmother over the others and how she views the rest of them and they all deal with what has happened.
There is another story about a professor who recently lost his wife. Now he is trying to find his place in the world without her there to help h
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Ramona Ausubel grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of the novel No One is Here Except All of Us, forthcoming from Riverhead Books in 2012, with the collection of short stories A Guide to Being Born to follow. She holds an MFA from the University of California, Irvine where she won the Glenn Schaeffer Award in Fiction and served as editor of Faultline Journal of Art & Literature. ...more
More about Ramona Ausubel...
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