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Tender

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  494 ratings  ·  110 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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Average rating 4.21  · 
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chai ♡
I am incapable of reading anything Sofia Samatar writes without the tumbling headlong desire to put my whole body into her words, to dissolve into them like salt into the waves, to be subsumed so completely into something so aching and grieving and beautiful.

I spent 6 long months reading this short-story collection, because the language is so sensuous, so rich and profuse with feeling I didn’t want to miss a second of it. I wanted to carry each word in my mouth and savor it for hours like an e
...more
Charlotte Kersten
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Apr 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021

Perhaps the story is a kind of treasure map.

The right kind of storytelling can lead to the most amazing places, there to uncover precious stones of wisdom and emotion and wonder even in the midst of a ravaged landscape filled with broken people. Sofia Samatar has already proved to me that she is a master of beautiful prose and of original worldbuilding with her first two novels, but this collection of short stories still managed to impress me with the intensity of feeling and the power of the
...more
fatma
"I once heard a beautiful story. I suppose that's why I write: because once somebody told me something beautiful."

How to describe the stories of Sofia Samatar's Tender? They're all beautifully written, for one. Samatar's language is economical and powerful, powerful because it is economical. In every one of these stories there is a line that makes you stop because it is so moving, so devastating, so poignant, so true-to-life. The short story lives and dies by its writer's ability to deliver
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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
Kiki
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
...more
Rachel
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:

https://chireviewofbooks.com/2017/05/...
...more
Teleseparatist
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.
Charlotte
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
...more
Nell 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
Allison
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!
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Ilana C. Myer
I reviewed Tender for the Los Angeles Review of Books: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/i... ...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
kelly!!
Sep 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
if you've met me for the past. two weeks you would have seen me carrying this book around. i picked it up at orchard library for the cover alone, and it really did not disappoint...

tender is a collection of short stories, separated into two sections: 'tender bodies' and 'tender landscapes'. in general i found 'bodies' to be the stronger half, but her writing is consistently incredible, flowing through the narrative with such ease ? i don't know how to describe it... but her writing style is one
...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
...more
Geoff
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. ...more
Erin
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story "Fallow" was incredible and worth reading this whole collection for. ...more
Cait
May 10, 2022 rated it it was amazing
yeah, this is the best of the best. tough to imagine that a collection that starts out with a story as good as "selkie stories are for losers" (which, btw, h/t to e whose short fiction fb group introduced me to samatar's writing years ago!!) can only go up from there, but every time you think this must be it, this must be the best story, surely there can't be any better—samatar outdoes herself again. I cried so many times reading this (luxuriating over it lol stretching it out just to be able to ...more
Shamiram
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
Rachel
Apr 15, 2022 rated it it was amazing
4.5 rounded up. Some of these stories were incredibly thought provoking and I had to sit with them for some time. Others were confusing or maybe I wasn’t able to grasp the larger image. These stories vary so widely it is difficult to even describe the collection. Mostly Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Dystopian? They all sort of leave you feeling hallow but in a good way?
My favorites but not in any order:
-Selkie Stories Are for Losers
-Walkdog
-Honey Bear
-How To Get Back to the Forest
-Tender
-Fallow
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
"I am so tender now, I feel the earth's pain all through my body. Often I lie down, pressing my cheek to the dust, and weep. I no longer feel, or even comprehend, the desire for another world, that passion which produces both marvels and monsters, both poisons and cures. Like the woman in this story, I understand that there is no other world. There is only the one we have made."



Just 2 out of 20 stories appear here for the first time; the rest have been previously published. I hadn't come across
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Nathaniel
“...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
...more
Ty
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
gwayle
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
Melissa
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. ...more
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. ...more
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
...more
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
Hannah
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.
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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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