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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  366 ratings  ·  80 reviews
The first collection of short fiction from a rising star whose stories have been anthologized in the first two volumes of the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series and nominated for many awards. Some of Samatar’s weird and tender fabulations spring from her life and her literary studies; some spring from the world, some from the void.
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Small Beer Press (first published April 11th 2017)
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a beautiful, original, often surprising, and yes, tender, short story collection by a fantastic author. Samatar’s novels are lovely, but I think she may excel even more in the short story format, which combines her exquisite writing with compressed plots that necessarily move briskly. And her wide command of genres is impressive: fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, fairy tales, contemporary, young adult. Most of the stories are sci-fi and fantasy, and while I love fantasy I typ ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'Tender' is a collection of short, Borgesian short stories, where the fantastical are entwined with different versions of our world, or rather the world is seen via the lens of Samatar's imagination, which chooses to explore issues like identity, belonging, immigration and the tribulations of not fitting in via a series of weird and wondrous narratives.  'Walkdog' is a story in the form on an essay about the blossoming romance between the narrator and the strange and awkward nephew of her teache ...more
Rachel León
This collection is quite stellar. I'm still wrapping my head around the brilliance of Sofia Samatar. I wrote a review for Chicago Review of Books and you can check it out here:
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, owned
A collection of prose, ranging from good to excellent. I started it off a while ago, by reading the novella (?), Fallow, whose power and beauty are still with me, and then spent much of January reading one story a day, usually in the evening. The beauty of language, the melancholy of style, the voices and concepts will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend it.
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"You called me an ant" she'll say.

And he, sitting up, framed by wild white hair, "Why, Sally, what's come over you, are you mad?"

"I'm not an ant."

The characters in Sofia Samatar's Tender seek to make sense of the world, of themselves, and their place in it. Samatar's inventiveness is shown in the variety of forms this quest takes, almost all of them explicitly related to the act of writing. The love letters, research essays, encyclopaedia draft entries, a dream journal--these are the tools for
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The best book of 2017.

Each story contains a whole world. Each object, each tiny thing, has so much metaphorical or symbolic weight, and is also itself. People who love generously, cruelties that resonate & expose entire structures and ways of being that depend upon them. Potatoes, lassi, American soda, cigarettes made from scraps of written records. Stories made up of letters and other documents that question that very materiality, the ethics of writing and recording and excavating. Excavating
Nicole Beaudry
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
As with any collection of short stories, the majority of these are good, a couple are lacklustre, and a few are spectacular. Samatar draws out, with tenderness, the aches and injuries and wounds of humanity and humans, these being two different things that intersect. Fantastic stories, often science fiction or fantasy with fairy tale elements, that express different pains in exquisite ways, always with a delicate prose and unique voice. I really enjoyed these, and look forward to reading more bu ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't even know what to say about Samatar anymore....everything I read from her is immersive and breathtaking. I'd read many of these stories before in various spec fic publications but a good portion was new and wholly amazing.

One of my favorites (and it was a favorite of mine when it was originally published) is her "Ogres of East Africa".

Longer review to come.

Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!
Ilana C. Myer
I reviewed Tender for the Los Angeles Review of Books: ...more
Bill Hsu
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Samatar's author bios generally don't mention her Somali-American family background, and that she has lived in Egypt and Sudan, among other places. These traces are all over her stories. Even in her most obviously fantastic pieces, she is often commenting on the shit state of our world at the moment, in thoughtful and nuanced ways. I love her language, and her approaches to character and story. Just look at how much intrigue she's able to squeeze into the title of the first story: "Selkie Storie ...more
Beth Cato
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.

I had read one of Samatar's stories before, her acclaimed "Selkie Stories are for Losers," and was happy to read it again as the opener to this collection. Samatar's stories are eloquent and thought-provoking. She doesn't use formulaic plots like most short stories writers; her narrative tends to glide along, relying on inference rather than blunt statements. She often draws on themes of isolation. I found some of the works a
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story "Fallow" was incredible and worth reading this whole collection for.
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I... am still processing this book. But! All of these stories took me to a different world (sometimes literally). The stories in Tender are dark, deep, funny, sad, and fantastical. I don't really know what I expected with this, but I enjoyed it, even when sometimes I had to set it down because it was jarring. One of the reviews on the back of the book says "reading these stories I am left deliciously tilted, the world around me stranger and more beautiful than before I opened the book" and I'd ...more
“...Egypt conquered Kush, you see, and the artists of Kush adopted Egypt’s painting style. And generations later, these Kushite artists used these images, images of their own people, to depict their enemies! Isn’t that odd? As if the images have no character at all. As if they are vessels that can be filled again and again. Simply the enemy. And what is required of the enemy’s image? Only that the figures are identical, and that they are many.” — from “Those”

I just did a thing that involved sayi
I remember loving this creative, consistently moving, and varied short story collection. Sofia Samatar is in a class of her own, and since I don't read short stories that often my analogs are limited, but she reminded me of the best parts of George Saunders's CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Karen Russell St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting worldbuilding that shows up as mysterious subtext readers slowly discover (and why should the characters discuss up front the detsils of their worlds? they're only strange and miraculous to us - to them it's just their normal existence.). The punch of these stories comes from the ways the speculative world building affects people's lives. like all of my favorite SF, these stories are concerned with people - why they love, hurt, break, and endure.
jess b
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
God, this collection is so good. Not every single story landed for me, but the vast majority were remarkable. Several of the stories were re-reads, and they were all even better the second time around. "Fallow", the novella near the end of the collection, made me cry inconsolably. Samatar is a genius, and I really feel like she ought to be much more widely read and acclaimed.
Andrea Blythe
Sofia Samatar's collection of stories reveals human (or not-so-human) tenderness as the aching of a wound, or the gentle kindness from another, or the vulnerability of the young. It's a stunning collection of powerful stories with beautiful writing and many with creative ways of expressing the tale (essay format, journal entries, letters) that provides a unique depth and texture.

I love "Selkie Stories Are for Losers," a story in which a young woman comes to terms with her anger at the loss of he
Leah Rachel von Essen
Tender is a fantastic short story collection from Sofia Samatar. From the feisty "Selkie Stories are for Losers" to the haunting fae-filled "Honey Bear" to the compelling, dreamlike, Dictionary of the Khazars–like "An Account of the Land of Witches," this collection is stunning from start to finish. Other favorites included "Those," a haunting parable of racism; "How to Get Back to the Forest," a tale of a sci fi 'camp' where teens live and grow, separated from their parents, and where one girl ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, searing tales that stare unerringly at the wounds (inside and out) that alienation and otherness open up.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I had some quibbles with the stories in the first part (Tender Bodies), but the second part (Tender Landscapes) more than made up for it. Gorgeously evocative writing.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Often, collections by a single author are a mixed bag; sometimes they're great, more often they're meh. How I sort the greats from the mehs is if, when I look at the table of contents, I can recall a story's details and how that story made me feel and think, and there are more "Ah! Yes, that one; I loved that one!" than "I don't remember this story at all," then I know the collection as a whole was successful for me as a reader. The thing is, with this collection, even the stories I was meh abou ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I always want to like short story collections and rarely actually do, but I loved this one. Most of the stories are slightly fantasy or sci fi, but subtly so, and in a way that makes their world and our own world seem strange and beautiful and tangible, and humans and other kinds of creatures seem wild and sad and real. Many of the characters long to be in other places or to be other kinds of beings, a feeling I'm familiar with. My favorite story, "Ogres of East Africa," is sort of about that, b ...more
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: to-review
A lot of good stories in this collection, particularly ones where the world of the story seems "normal" then one small twist reveals that it is actually dystopic (ex. "Selkie Stories Are for Lovers", "Honey Bear" and "How to Get Back to be Forest"). These stories cluster in the front half of the book (Tender Bodies) and the collection feels unbalanced. It didn't gel as a collection for me.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
A rare “Nopes”’for me. I think this may be one of the first books that I straight up closed. I felt no guilt about not devoting any more time to reading. I liked the first short story but it all went down from there. These seem like random writing prompt ideas and not actual stories. The narration style is too haphazard and was not enjoyable.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
how did i accidentally mark two stars for this book? i meant to say, at least six! stunning world building, and a story cycle structure that unfolds beautifully
Morgan Dhu
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sofia Samatar’s collection of short fiction, Tender, is a feast. Some of these stories I had read before, but most were new to me. The interesting thing is that, in rereading the stories I had read before, such as “The Ogres of Africa,” I found new insights. These are stories that contain multitudes. They are about monsters and outsiders (which are often the same thing, at least in the minds of those who define what is inside and normal). Or about people who have placed themselves outside, beyon ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sofia Samatar's writing changes the way my thoughts sound. For a little while after I finish reading one of her stories, the rhythm and lyricism stay with me. I remember something from my past, and try to connect it to a larger narrative. I pay a little more attention to the world around me, and think of how it might be described in one of Samatar's stories. They make me want to write.

Part of the reason why, I think, is because this collection is very self-conscious about the act of storytellin
loved: "selkie stories are for losers", "ogres of east africa", "the tale of mahliya and mauhub and the white-footed gazelle", "those", "a brief history of nonduality studies", “an account of the land of the witches”, “meet me in iram”, “request for an extension on the clarity”, "fallow"

esoteric, inconclusive worlds to parse and puzzle over and peel, layer by layer, always mediated in the end by textuality, bound to the page or surface on which they are inscribed. sometimes it feels as though on
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Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar.

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