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Back Talk

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,185 ratings  ·  143 reviews
From an award-winning writer, a stunning collection of stories about women’s unexpressed desires and needs, and the unexpected ways they resurface.

In “Floor Plans,” a woman at the end of her marriage tests her power when she inadvertently befriends the neighbor trying to buy her apartment. In “Appetite,” a sixteen-year old grieving her mother’s death experiences first lov
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,185 ratings  ·  143 reviews

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Celeste Ng
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Danielle Lazarin’s Back Talk is deceptively quiet but packs a powerful punch—much like the girls and women in its pages. The stories in this collection batter at the boundaries of female desire—not just for sex, but for intimacy, for visibility, for agency. They talk back to the idea that stories about women are “domestic,” burrowing deep to find wildness and a smoldering fury beneath. The best collection I've read in years, from a phenomenal new talent. ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm lucky, I'm married to the author so have actually read this book already. But you can pre-order it today and have it in your hands in February! ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
In general, I’ve never really been a fan of the short story genre. When reading fiction, I prefer either novellas or full-length novels because an important part of the reading experience for me is being able to connect with the characters I’m reading about in some way, which I personally find very difficult (sometimes even nearly impossible) to do with short stories due to the little amount of time I get to spend with each character. Because of this, I usually go into short story collections wi ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
These are well-done stories about young woman - separately I liked each story well enough - but the more I read, the more they blended together and seemed the same. Now that I'm finished, I can't remember any of them. ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Hm.. this book was a 2-star for me, but I can see why it'd be a 4 or 5 star to other people. It's objectively well-written and every sentence feels like it has a purpose. I just couldn't connect with it at all and I didn't really feel anything as I read it. I should have known what I was getting into, because in general I don't enjoy short story collections, AND I knew these were stories about middle-class white woman at various stages of their lives, which didn't sound exciting to me. But both ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: story-collection
The women in this collection of stories are not the same, but they do share a set of characteristics: white women, middle-class women, women who live in New York or thereabouts. When something is set in New York it often goes with the highs and the lows: the rich, the poor, the billionaire, the addict, the socialite, the prostitute. But Lazarin is more focused on the heightened emotions in the everyday lives of everyday women.

Falling in love, raising children, breaking up, fighting with parents
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
Review coming soon at another outlet, so I won't write too much here, but this is a collection of 16 stories about young women (from young girls to mid thirties) who are navigating the unscripted aspects of their lives - the friendships and romances and family bonds that don't seem to work out the way they "should." Don't expect too much plot; these stories are quiet snapshots of emotional ambivalence, of women who don't quite trust their own feelings because they can't fit them neatly into pre- ...more
Katia N
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
It is a debut collection centred around private lives of young white middle-class women. Broadly all the stories are either related to the coming of the age /first love or break-ups of long-term relationships between 30-somethings. Many stories are set in New York; some - in San Francisco and Paris. The sense of place is tangible and adds a flavour to the narrative. I liked very much the coming of the age stories - they all convey this atmosphere of insecurity in your own thoughts and body and t ...more
Xiomara Canizales
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs, 2018-read
Rating 3.5
If I have to describe this book with one word would be WOMANHOOD.
In this stories collection you will find a women's growth, a women's desire, a women dealing with divorce or an affair or the death of her mother or falling apart from her best friend.
Probably the idea was that the stories wouldn't have a begging nor an end, is more the sequence of life's events and how this woman deal with it, so you won't find 'happy endings' is more the acceptance of who the person is and how to live w
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library
I liked this, but that is truly the extent of it, if not even pushing it a little bit. I finished it because I was intrigued and entertained enough, but I just kept waiting for some hidden theme or thing that just really made the stories come together or really make much of any sense lol. Every single time a story ended, I was like "ok?" lol. I understand they are short stories, so they aren't supposed to get some huge plot or story line across, but to me, there would be some point to it being w ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Original Review: Mad Book Love

It wasn't long ago that I would have said I don't enjoy short stories. They try to say too much in too little space. They don't allow for in-depth character development. It's too difficult to get emotionally invested. That had been my experience with short stories anyhow, the few that I'd given any time to. But recently, I've been lucky enough to get my hands on short stories that have proved me wrong, that have shown how deep you can go within only a handful of pag
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book of stories took my breath away. It was just what I needed after suffering from a long reading rut. The stories are short, but the gut punching impact they leave isn't. All of the stories feature strong women at different points in their lives and relationships with men and women. I always love it when a book of short stories has several stories that share characters, so pay close attention and you'll see there are connective threads between some. ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
As with many short story collections, this was another mixed bag for me. I felt pretty ambivalent about most of the stories in the first half of the book, but then found that I liked almost all of the stories towards the end of the book. I particularly liked that the protagonists in all the stories were women, and common themes included New York, Paris and relationships. A number of the stories are kind of vague and don't have all that satisfying conclusions, but the writing showed promise. ...more
Riva Sciuto
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
A stunning debut from a remarkable new author. All told from the perspective of women at various points in their lives, Danielle Lazarin's short stories encapsulate the essence of what it means to be human: grief-stricken, in love, heartbroken, struggling with motherhood, enduring the pain of divorce, and lost in the crippling uncertainty of the future.

In the book's opening story, "Appetite," we meet two sisters in the aftermath of their mother's death. "I was twelve when my mother died. It too
Cindi (Utah Mom’s Life)
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Review originally posted on my blog :

I often find myself watching people--in the doctor's office waiting room, at the grocery store, as I drive around town. Now and then, I can't help wondering about their lives and what brought them to that particular moment. In that kindly voyeuristic way, Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin is a collection of short stories that feature women and girls. Marriage, friendship, motherhood and other family relationships are explo
Sivananthi T
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely collection of stories of women's desires and hopes, and living within constrained relationships in one way or another. Back talk is to respond with sass to a situation or a person - and in this case, in these stories, the response, or the sassiness of it is only known to the protagonists, and of course, the readers. ...more
Chris Blocker
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Even the best of short story collections are uneven. I used to find this odd—how could a writer who wrote such a fabulous story follow it with such a crap story? I realize now that it makes sense. I mean, after all, if you look at any author's complete body of works, you'll find great works and ho-hum works. No writer is one-hundred percent consistent. The difference is in presentation. We think of a collection of short stories as a complete work. A novelist's whole career is not held under the ...more
Zoe Tribley
May 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
I LOVE short stories

Just not these short stories.

No one can convince me that they have agency and purpose. I get the women. I get what it feels like to want things like attention, sex, love, and the feeling of belonging somewhere. I get the women. I also get the stories.

However, starting them and ending them left me with the same feeling of indifference. Nothing about the stories changed me or made me feel anything because, in creating the images of the women, that was average, but in telling a
Xhenet Aliu
I'm giving this book five stars, but I have to say in some ways it's terrible: it's terrible if you pick it up at night because you have insomnia and you're looking for a little nugget to lull you to sleep, but instead of doing that it makes you feel buzzy like you took a dose of your little sister's ADD meds. It's terrible if you like to read short stories one-at-a-time like a palate cleanser between big meaty novels, because you will lie to yourself many times when you insist you're going to r ...more
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I don't consider myself to typically be a huge reader of short stories, but this collection lived up to the hype (I've seen Celeste Ng recommend it multiple times) - every story felt complete, and while I often wanted more (omg the babysitting story) it was a fulfilling collection of women making their own decisions and finding their power. ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
3.5 stars

This collection was a bit underwhelming, probably because I had heard so many positive things about it and I had high expectations.

Faves: American Men in Paris I Did Not Love, Floor Plans.
Donna Foster
Feb 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: review
Moody, weird and incomplete.
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
These are well-written stories that are rather depressing overall. What is valuable in them and thus makes them worth a reader's time is the questioning nature of the main character's voice, a young female.

Ordinary life situations surrounding parents, siblings, divorce, first love, dating, and more are presented as having something dysfunctional occurring. There is an aura of unhappiness permeating these stories. Finally the young woman questions why she puts up with poor treatment, with being d
Katy Jean Vance
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I often don’t enjoy short story collections because I find them uneven and disjointed. This one was wonderful. There were so many times where I thought “Oh! Me too!”. It’s a lovely portrait of women of all different stages of life. I don’t know how diverse it was in terms of characters... but I’m white, so I may just be mapping my own identity on to the characters.

Lovely. I enjoyed marking this one up.
Lindsey Z
May 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 🌟

Not the collection of feminist stories I thought these would be. Sure, it's about women, but there aren't any big revelations or discoveries here. I hardly remember any of the stories unfortunately. I appreciated the thematic thread of disappointments, fractures, and losses in the lives of women but my enjoyment of the collection didn't stretch much beyond that. The writing was fine but nothing impressive.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
"But really, had she wanted to know those things? Did they seem, once she did know, like secrets? She knows so well the burden of being told, of knowing, and how impossible it is to unknow, to forget. . . But she understands, too, that someone in the family has to be the one who forgets just enough every now and then, so they can keep moving forward." ...more
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A collection of stories about girls and women that I not only loved but appreciated--not just the exquisite, direct writing but for the shamelessness of the stories themselves. Yes, we can want and need, try and fail, break and stand, expose ourselves. Sometimes it's enough to just go on. The one description I kept coming back to was "unfrosted." Nothing about this collection is sugar and spice. Things get tough, but nevertheless... (chick fist in the air)... ...more
Feb 08, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. These are solid stories, but many left me wanting more. I don't know if the protagonists' voices were too similar or what, but the stories seemed to blend together. I did appreciate their subtlety, though, and the writing is immensely readable. The dialogue is fantastic, and the writing itself is so good. Can't wait to see what this author puts out next. ...more
Ryan Mishap
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
An excellent and unusual collection of stories from and about girls and young women; how what they want and need in this world and from those around them don't match what they get, see, and experience.

Really stellar and worth your eyeball time.
Jennifer S. Brown
Enjoyed these short stories, especially the two that were linked. Very New York, very relatable.
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Danielle Lazarin's debut collection of short stories, BACK TALK, is out now from Penguin Books.

Danielle's short stories have won grants from New York Foundation for the Arts and the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, the Glimmer Train Family Matters Award, and Hopwood Awards. She is graduate of the writing programs of Oberlin College and the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers' Program. Sh

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“We called our mothers by their first names only in their absence. We were still good girls then, but even if we'd been brave enough to try, we wouldn't have known what to rebel against.” 2 likes
“Claire sensed that her mother wanted all the ugliness of her daughter's growing up over with, as though the pain she was sure to experience was best to happen quickly. Claire wanted these years before adulthood, ugly as they might be, to take their time. She wanted her mother to be wrong.” 1 likes
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