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4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,323 ratings  ·  627 reviews
Winner of the 2012 Story Prize
Recipient of the 2012 American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Foundation Award
A National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" fiction writer of 2012

Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptional
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 2nd 2012 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,323 ratings  ·  627 reviews

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Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
these stories are about encounters. people trying to make connections with other people. some are emotional, some protective, some sexual, some cross-cultural, some just a hand reaching out into the void. and most of them are very good.

the first couple of stories didn't do anything for me, which was a shame, because i really wanted and expected to like the manson one. but it just felt a little writer's workshoppy to me. but after the uneven first two, i pretty much loved every story that followe
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Battleborn is by far one of the best short story collections I've ever read. Each story took my breath away with the strength of the prose and the momentum of each story, often quiet but building and building. Several of the stories made me cry by the end because they were so beautiful and so powerful and I was in such awe. I will say more in an actual review somewhere but this is outstanding. Also, there's a real diversity of narrative techniques at work here. From a craft perspective there is ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez

I guess the first order of business would be Watkins' dad, who was that cult-member Watkins who rolled on Charlie Manson. Now, my own father had a pretty crazy life and cultivated some strange, ever-changing, some would argue "paranoid schizo" views over the years, but I can't even imagine what it would be like to know that at some point before you were conceived, your father harbored white supremacist beliefs and honestly thought that the end of days and the fate of all mankind had been
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Quite frankly, I did not like a lot of these stories. They were filled with young, obnoxious characters that I wanted to slap; characters who always seemed to have money, though they never seemed to work, who didn't appreciate the good things they had and who made stupid, stupid choices. Looking at the author's photo, I reasoned, eh, she's young. She'll get better. Her writing, after all, is solid and nuanced. She throws off great lines like The mind is a mine. So often we revisit its winding, u ...more
Jeanette (Again)
This author shows some definite promise, provided she can manage to sort out her verb-tense schizophrenia. She doesn't shy away from dicey material. In the first few stories, she revels in the strange and the forbidden, with stories about abortion, incest, a gay male madam at a Nevada brothel, and kids who ran with Charlie Manson. The last few stories are a bit more commonplace, but still edgy, because edginess is the petri dish from which her stories evolve.

Most of these stories are set in Wat
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ten powerful stories by a tough lady. Once you know whom Claire Vaye Watkins’ father was, it is impossible to forget that fact and you’re not surprised that she tells stories that are consistently tough and hard. She moves through time, such as the story of the two unlucky golddiggers, but also tells tales which, I would imagine, are close to her own life and past and that of her family and friends. Most stories are set in Nevada in and around Reno, such as the heartbreaking story of the Italian ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Quiet battle

I read Watkins’s stories compulsively. I couldn’t stop or look away though I often wanted to. With Watkins longing is a constant state of being. She writes with starkness that’s reflected in the desert settings. Sometimes her stories are set in the old west and sometimes the west of last week. There’s quietness to them. Hatred, lust, and desperation swirl under the surface and only erupt intermittently. Even in the seemingly sweetest of settings and situations sudden violence or even
Peter Derk
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Someone just asked me "How did you learn to read poetry?"

It's a great question. It really is. Because I didn't know the answer, but at the same time there's a skill to pick up somewhere.

By that same token, I have to wonder if people struggle with short stories because they don't know how to read them. The poetry is a question I have to think over, but for the short stories I have an idea.

Short stories are the serial monogamy of reading.

For those who aren't familiar with that term and just don't
Connie G
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, nevada
"Battleborn", a debut collection of short stories, gets its title from the nickname for Nevada which was given statehood during the Civil War. Claire Vaye Watkins wrote the short stories soon after she started graduate school in Ohio, feeling homesick for her home state of Nevada and grieving for her recently deceased mother.

Watkins gets her family history out front in the first story, "Ghosts, Cowboys", which is mostly historical with a bit of fiction. Her father, Paul Watkins, was Charles Mans
Bob Brinkmeyer
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a fine collection of stories about life in the West, most of the stories set in contemporary times, though there is a superb novella, "The Diggings," that takes place during the Gold Rush. Watkins' scrappy, hard-nosed vision cuts against the hopeful cultural mythology that has for so long shaped America's predominant conception of the West (when you're unhappy, you can pack up and head west, leaving all your troubles--and responsibilities--behind). This dream of the West is largely absen ...more
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us, 21-ce, fiction, stories
I've decided to rate and review these stories as I read them. So far I've only read two:

The first, "Ghosts, Cowboys," is excellent. Watkins's father was a member of the Charles Manson gang -- it is said he was one of Manson's top procurers of girls -- and he testified against Manson at the trial. Now here's his daughter writing a terrific story about the whole affair.

The second story, "The Last Thing We Need," is also exquisite. A Nevada farmer finds some detritus by the side of the road that c
Julie Christine
Nov 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2015, shorts
Stories I admired, but with which I felt very little emotional connection. Exceptional technique, but curiously absent of heart. The characters were distant, disheartened, sad creatures, dried up, like hollows in the desert where water once stood.

Highlights included Ghosts, Cowboys, a channeling of Watkins' family history, when her father sat at the right hand of Charles Manson; Rondine Al Nido, the collection's most true and fragile, about two young girls gambling their innocence in Las Vegas,
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It couldn’t have been easy growing up Claire Vaye Watkins. Her father – Paul Watkins – was Charlie Manson’s second in command and ultimately testified against him. But to consider this very talented author from that perspective would be reductive. She is a force to be reckoned with and writes so exquisitely and metaphorically that it is hard not to be riveted to the page.

Wisely, she ties in her own mythology with that of the West in her magnificent opening story, Ghosts, Cowboys. The pitiless la
Richard  Thomas
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing

There is something equally freeing and unsettling about the wide-open desert—the horizon stretching out forever is both unattainable and inspiring. In Battleborn, a collection of stories by Claire Vaye Watkins, we get to explore all aspects of Nevada, from the sad allure of a brothel to nights out in Vegas that can only lead to trouble, told in an honest and yet lyrical voice. We bear witness to those moments in time beyond which ther
Battleborn is Claire Vaye Watkins debut collection of short fiction, set mostly in the U.S. state of Nevada, along the California border. The title refers to one of the state nicknames, Battle Born - itself a reference to Nevada's historic achievement of statehood during the civil war. Claire Watkins is the daughter of Paul Watkins, a former member of the Mason Family - and I was curious as to what kind of stories she'd come up with, having an experience like that.

I'm sure there's plenty of inte
really compelling first collection of short stories, most set in nevada, though as the nature of the west, all over everywhere too, one i particularly liked is "the diggings" set in 1849 gold rush, for its historical authenticity and subtle (most of the time) looks at white hatred of everybody else, if that is, they have gold and you can take it away from them.
i also like the use of real trees, grasses, shrubs, rivers, creeks, playas, places for the dead-onness that invokes in me.
also like a s
Matt Brady
A series of short stories linked by setting - the deserts of Nevada and eastern California, and by the utter despair at the core of each one. I don’t mind a sad story, but ten sad stories, with no huge variation, all utterly humourless, wasn’t very enjoyable. The author certainly has a lot of talent, particularly in the way she reveals a character’s personality through small actions and observations, but the misery became very predictable very quickly. If there’d just been a little more of, well ...more
Jenny Shank
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing

‘Battleborn,’ by Claire Vaye Watkins, is a 'remarkable debut' of short stories
By JENNY SHANK Special Contributor
Published: 03 August 2012 01:53 PM

Nevada shapes each of the characters in Claire Vaye Watkins’ assured debut collection of stories, Battleborn.

The state’s permissiveness influences some characters, as with the working girls at the Cherry Patch Ranch brothel in “The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past,” or the young women growing up
lucky little cat
Nobody's got the miseries of Las Vegans and other Nevada desert dwellers. And they don't even have blues music for consolation.
Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night*

In this short story collection, you'll meet a grieving twenty-something obsessed with polar bears, nuclear testing fallout victims, Manson's last landlord, 49ers who arrive too late, and a litter of desert-house prostitutes who telepathically clamor "Pick me!" You'll hear about the Comstock Lode Curse. And
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Starts out with three strong stories, and then the writing becomes awkward and the storylines confusing. This is the sentence that ended the endeavor for me: "I pressed my hands to my breasts where they'd begun to bloom up from my bra, and longed for a museum that didn't feel like a museum."
M. Sarki
May 12, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: someone I do not like
Shelves: abandoned
I was so wrong in my initial response to the first story in this book. I mistakenly believed I had found another Claire-Louise Bennett, but this Claire is in no way, even in one story, close. My Claire is a genius, this Claire is not. But what scares me about this particular writer is that she is also a teacher, and what we have absolutely no need of are more collections the inferior quality of this one. The writing is actually bad and so pathetically boring that I had to abandon it. You want a ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
I cannot help feel both awed at the small magnificence of human nature and the complete foolishness of our self-regard accurately portrayed by Watkins. The author has written ten short stories about folks who are connected to the thoroughly Freudian id city of Las Vegas from the gold miner era to the present, catching all kinds of people who are following their inner desires mostly without any glimmer of the disaster or the hidden corner of their own mind which will soon be exposed, like an ani ...more
Kima Jones
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Easily one of the best short story collections that I've ever read. The first three stories will leave you speechless. "Diggings" deserves all kinds of awards on its own. "Ghosts, Cowboys" is exceptional.

Wish You Were Here, The Archivist and Virginia City were all throwaways for me.

She really turns the Southwest mythos on its head and then back again. Incredible, incredible.

I cried for a full 10 minutes after "The Thing We Need." So, so good.
Emily Thompson
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best collections I can remember reading ever. The writing is beautiful, the dialog is raunchy, the plots are action-packed and the characters are unique and well-rounded. I'm so glad to have read this modern gem. If you love poetry mixed with psychology and action, you must read this story collection!
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This a review I wrote for my bookstore, BookPeople in Austin, TX:

Picking up a copy and looking at the back of Battleborn, it's hard not to be interested. How does a debut by a young writer have promotional quotes from Joy Williams, Donald Ray Pollock, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Paul Harding? Impressive to say the least. That mixed with a cover picturing a desert that would be picturesque if it didn't threaten to consume you whole and burn you alive. And such a gritty title, Battleborn. Al
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alan by: tuck; karen
Shelves: short-stories
On the whole an excellent collection, although like Karen I found the first story off-putting with its tricksy stopping and starting, although it did get better as it went into the Manson connection. The author also used her first name (Claire), so I wasn’t sure if the author really was the daughter of one of Manson’s gang or not: so I looked it up, and she is! Made me wonder then if the story was fiction at all, if she has people stalking her and wanting her picture etc.… anyway it left me intr ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
When Claire Vaye Watkins is on, she's on. When she's off, she's off. Luckily for her, the times when she's on overpower the times when she's off. Watkins writes about people who are struggling to make sense of their place in the world and define their relationships with the people around them. I was blown away by the first semi-autobiographical story of the bunch, "Ghosts, Cowboys," and its follow-up, "The Last Thing We Need," and if the remaining stories had been written with the same style and ...more
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
From the back cover photo, I think the author looks like Lena Dunham. From the preview of the next HBO Girls episode, it looks like her character, Hannah, writes about her own life...and I didn't realize Watkins was doing that too in the short story, Ghosts, Cowboys about who her father was. (I didn't know until I was reading reviews.)

Many of the short stories here could have been lengthened for a novel--I liked the one best about the two brothers who were panning for gold. That had to take a lo
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I have read this year. Hands down. And I have read so many good ones. Claire Vaye Watkins looks in her rearview mirror at the whole D'agata/Jim Frey whoo-ha and says, really, guys, isn't it time to move on? But that is only one of a hundred things this book does right. The writing is razor sharp and there is the best kind of surprise in every story. So glad to have another great young western woman on the scene.

Kayla ☕️📚
4.5 Stars

I really enjoyed this short story collection by Claire Vaye Watkins. Her writing style is captivating, and her stories themselves are beautifully heartbreaking. Only reason I didn’t give it a full 5 is because almost all of her short stories feel very unfinished, and I hate that!! I wanna know what happens with the characters! Lol 😂 but then again, maybe that was her intention. Either way, this collection is brilliant. I definitely recommend if you’re a fan of short stories.
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Claire Vaye Watkins was born in Bishop, California in 1984. She was raised in the Mojave Desert, first in Tecopa, California and then across the state line in Pahrump, Nevada. A graduate of the University of Nevada Reno, Claire earned her MFA from the Ohio State University, where she was a Presidential Fellow. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Paris Review, Ploughshare ...more

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