Best-selling, award-winning, pop culture powerhouse Roxane Gay guest edits this year’s Best American Short Stories , the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction.
“I am looking for the artful way any given story is conveyed,” writes Roxane Gay in her introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2018 , “but I also love when a story has a powerful message, when a story teaches me something about the world.” The artful, profound, and sometimes funny stories Gay chose for the collection transport readers from a fraught family reunion to an immigration detention center, from a psychiatric hospital to a coed class sleepover in a natural history museum. We meet a rebellious summer camper, a Twitter addict, and an Appalachian preacher—all characters and circumstances that show us what we “need to know about the lives of others.”
Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women and the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. She has several books forthcoming and is also at work on television and film projects.
I learned a few years ago that I like short story collections…a lot!! I try to read a few every year. In general, I tend to prefer short story collections by a single author rather than anthologies. In anthologies, the amounts of appeal per story/writer often vary dramatically. That said, I really liked this anthology. This collection of 20 stories was very diverse both in content and mood. It also had a very wide variety of authors. This is a female centric collection (males contributed 25%). Its very gender, race, and sexuality conscious with interesting takes on display. There was also a pretty good distribution of light, quirky and humous vs weird, darkness, and sorrow.
I started reading this in 2019. I was finding it difficult to get through so I put it on hold. After November, 3rd I was able to gobble this up. This made it feel like the second half was stronger than the first. Basically my general mood was just different when reading one half vs the other (though my favorites tended toward the end of the collection). My favorites/most affecting were: A Big True, Everything is Far From Here, Good With Boys, The Baptism, A Prairie Wife, and Boys Go to Jupiter. There are more that I liked and didn't list and only a couple that I didn't like at all. Those were based upon subject matter more than the writing. I hope Gay does more short story anthologies. I think she has a knack for picking a great collection of stories. All in all, one of the better anthologies that I've come across.
As a short story writer, I really enjoy this anthology series, from both a reader's and writer's perspective. But BASS 2018? This is my favorite year by far. Roxane Gay doesn't choose stories based on the magazine they are published in. There's even a piece or two of genre fiction (weeks later, I am still haunted by The Brothers Brujo. That first paragraph. THAT FIRST PARAGRAPH. It should be taught in every writing class about how to write a first paragraph.) I'm not surprised by some of the commentary I've read about the anthology. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. I've read reviews centering on how people don't think these stories deserve the title "best of" because they are too political, because they are not written like other good short stories are, because they sound different, and, of course, because 'the only reason these stories were chosen was because Roxane Gay wanted to choose political stories.' Here is what I say to those readers: being political and being good are NOT mutually exclusive. And, furthermore: most of these stories aren't overtly political. Having diverse characters does not equal a polemic against the current administration. This is the first of the "Best of" series where I wasn't completely overwhelmed by the male, able-bodied WASPiness of it all. BASS 2018 is not about what IS traditionally considered "good" literary fiction. It is about what SHOULD be considered good literary fiction. It is about stories and voices that are glorious and beautiful but have been overlooked again and again by literature as a collective. The stories here experiment with structure, with voice, with point of view and with subject matter. Most of the time, I end up enjoying between 1/3 and 1/2 of the stories per BASS collection. This year, I enjoyed all but two or three, and that was mostly because they just weren't the style I enjoy reading – stepping back as a reader, from a craft standpoint they were quite strong. I strongly encourage readers and writers alike to pick up this anthology. It is perfect for teaching craft, and showcases a variety of voices and POVs: great for classrooms with a wide range of writerly sensibilities.
I knew that Roxane Gay would be great as the editor of this year’s Best American Short Stories, and she didn’t let me down. The stories here represent voices from diverse backgrounds but maintain a common theme of family dynamics and generational and cultural expectations. My favorites were “Good With Boys” and “A Big Truth.”
یکی از بهترین ها از این سری کتابها بود. خدا رو شکر امسال هم تونستم یکی از این سری کتابها رو تموم کنم و واقعا انتخاب داستانها در کتاب بهترین داستان کوتاه های آمریکایی سال 2018 تقریبا منطبق با سلیقه م بود. لذت بردم. با تشکر از خانم روکسان گی.
تم اصلی داستان ها روی دو محور مهاجرین، و زنها تعریف شده بود. اما مثل همیشه موضوعات مربوط به همجنسگرایان هم در خلال داستانها بیش از حد معمول دیده میشود. دوست داشتم کسی این مجموعه را ترجمه و چاپ میکرد. تکنیکهای استفاده شده در داستانها مناسب برای کلاسهای داستان نویسی است.
خلاصه ای از داستان ها و بهترینشان به سلیقه ی خودم:
⭐️ Cougar - "کال" پسری است که در کودکی مادرش را از دست داده، و پدرش هم زمانی که کال به دبیرستان میرفته ناپدید شده است (احتمالا خودکشی کرده). کال زندگی اش را در یک کاروان قدیمی میگذراند و درآمدش را از کار در رستوران تامین میکند. تنها دوستش پیرمردی در آستانه ی مرگ است که کرایه ی کاروان را به او میدهد. محلی ها در اطراف یک شیر کوهی را دیده اند که گاهی باعث کشته شدن و ناپدید برخی شده است. کال همزمان به دنبال پیدا کردن دلیل ناپدید شدن پدرش است.
⭐️ A Family - مردی به نام کورتیس پس از بیست سال از زندان آزاد میشود و پس از آزادی متوجه میشود در این مدت بهترین دوستش در یک آتش سوزی مرده است. آخرین ارتباط کورتیس با دوستش به کدورت و جدایی ختم شده است. کورتیس به دنبال همسر و فرزند دوستش میافتد. آمیختهای از احساس مسئولیت و گناه.
The Art of Losing - زن و شوهری کره ای از زندگیشان میگویند. زن سالها بدون عشقی عمیق زندگی اش را تحمل کرده و مردی خود رای و خودخواه را تاب آورده. حالا سن و سالی از انها گذشته است و مرد به آلزایمر دچار شده است. داستان دو زاویه دید دارد. یکی زن و دیگری مرد. ماجرای ناپدید شدن زن و تنها ماندن مردی پا به سن گذاشته و دچار آلزایمر با نوه ی 4-5 سالهش جالب بود.
Los Angeles - دختری به نام آلیس دور از خانواده در شهر لس آنجلس و در یک مغازه فروش لباس زیر کار میکند. رئیس مغازه با انتخاب دختران جذاب مشتری جذب میکند. همزمان در کلاس بازیگری هم ثبت نام کرده که شهریه ی بالایی هم به او تحمیل میکند. آلی�� برای پرداخت شهریه به کمک مادرش کمک میکند اما برای ترم بعد مادر دیگر نمیخواهد کمکی بکند. آرام آرام به کمک یکی از دختران مغازه با شیوهی جدیدی از درآمد آشنا میشود: مردانی که لباس زیر کار کرده ی دختران را میخرند. آگهی های خریدها را به صورت آنلاین تماشا میکند و تصمیم های بعدی را میگیرد.
Unearth - در حیاط مدرسه ای قدیمی بقایای یک پسر بومی پس از 50 سال یافت میشود. از روی مشخصات مدرسه و آنچه از اسناد باقی مانده، با وابستگان این بقایا تماس گرفته میشود. تنها وابسته ای که در قید حیات است خواهرش است. خواهر این پسر پس از 50 سال سوگواری را سر میگیرد.
⭐️Boys Go To Jupiter - داستان یک دختردانشجو است که وقتی دوست پسرش عکسی از او در بیکینی با پرچم فدراسیون (Federation Flag) روی فیسبوک میگذارد، درگیر سو برداشتهایی در خوابگاه و دانشگاه میشود. اغلب از طرف دانشجویان سیاهپوست این کار یک عمل نژادپرستانه تلقی میشود. اما این دختر سابقه ای هم دارد که کمی موضوع رو روشن میکند.
A History of China - دختری به نام "ساشا جین" در گردهم آیی سالانه خانواده پدری اش در املاک اجدادی اش شرکت میکند. میان عموها و عمه ها. پدر او که مالک اصلی این املاک شده است تازه در گذشته و در وصیتی تمام املاک را به ساشا جین به ارث گذاشته و به او توصیه کرده تمام ساختمانها را بکوبد و از بین ببرد. حالا او در این گرد هم آیی میخواهد این خبر را به عموها و عمه ها و فرزندانشان بدهد.
Come on Silver - دختر جوانی به نام جوزفین در تعطیلات تابستان و پس از پایان دبیرستان به کمپ آموزشی دختران میرود. کمپ مخصوص دخترانی است که اولین پریود خود را تجربه کرده باشند و در آن آموزشهایی از قبیل اسب سواری و قایق سواری و آموزشهای زنانگی داده میشود. جوزفین به اسب علاقه دارد و خلال اقامتش در کمپ با مشکلات درونی مواجهه با سکس درگیر میشود.
What Go into Us - رابطه دو پسر در ابتدای چهارده سالگی و اولین بوسه. سپس فلش فوروارد و توضیح اتفاقات در آینده. مادرانشان با تلاش هم میتوانند مخارج یک خانه را تامین کنند. در نتیجه دو خانواده در یک خانه زندگی میکنند. پسرها تمایلات همجنسگرایانه دارند و دور از چشم مادرانشان با هم ارتباط جنسی برقرار میکنند که -با توجه به همخانه بودن این دو خانواده- کم هم نیست. آینده پیش میرود و شرایط و اتفاقاتی رخ میدهد. در انتها راوی به لحظه ی ابتدای داستان در لحظه حال برمیگردد. به لحظه اولین بوسه.
Everything is Far From Here - زنی به همراه پسر 4 ساله اش به صورت غیر قانونی میخواهد از مرز عبور کند. راهنماهای غیر قانونی باعث جدایی مادر و فرزند میشوند و حالا آنسوی مرز مادر به تنهایی منتظر است تا خبری از فرزندش برسد.
Good with Boys -جیل دختری حدود 10-11 ساله در یک اردوی مختلط بازدید شب خواب از موزه شرکت میکند. او عاشق پسرهاست و یکی از پسرهایی (عیسا) که از بدشانسی با مادرش در اردو حضور پیدا کرده را برای خود نشان کرده. در خلال شب اتفاقاتی می افتد که او را کمی به پسر نزدیک میکند و گاه دور. جیل خودآگاه است و به شرح انگیزه و درونیات خود به صورت شفاف و صادقانه می پردازد. در آخر بدون موفقیت چندانی شب به پایان میرسد و او به کامیابی رابطه با پسرها نمیرسد. نکته: میل جیل به پسرها اصلا جنسی نیست و تنها آنها را مثل یک جواهر، یک زینت و یک شیء میبیند که احتمالا از نداشتن تکیه گاه در زندگی نشات میگیرد.
Control Negro - یک استاد دانشگاه سیاه پوست تصمیم میگیرد برای یک آزمایش تصمیم میگیرد فرزندی به دنیا بیاورد و از راه دور کنترلش کند تا ببیند شرایط نژادی، تربیتی چه تاثیری بر سرنوشت او دارد. آیا نگاه قشر سفید پوست نسبت به کسی که پرورش کافی دیده خواه سیاه یا سفید تغییری میکند یا خیر. پسری میخواهد تربیت کند تا قابل رقابت و یا بالاتر از همرده های سفیدش باشد.
The Brothers Brujo - یک داستان در ژانر ترسناک و رئالیسم جادوئی درباره دو برادر که توسط پدر عجیب و غریبشان مورد سو استفاده قرار گرفته اند. پدری با اعتیاد به مواد مخدر و بزهکاری های مختلف و قطع یک دست و دو پا در جنگ ویتنام. برادرها نقشه ای برا فرار از دست پدرشان دارند.
⭐️ A Big True - یک مهاجر ایرانی به نام رهاد بعد از بیست سال زندگی در آمریکا همچنان به دنبال منطبق کردن خودش با زندگی آمریکایی در عین حفظ آزادی های فردی و ذهنی اش است. دخترش یاسمن متخصص آی تی است و به نوعی غرق در زندگی و نگرش آمریکایی شده.
Items Awaiting Protective Enclosure - داستان اولین عشق دختر به مردی شکارچی شاخ گوزن شمالی. از گردشهای مخفیانه و دو نفره برای پیدا کردن شاخ های افتاده از گوزن ها و فروش آنها در بازار سیاه و کسب درآمد، تا دستگیری مرد و موضوعات عاشقانه ای که هیچ گاه مستقیم بیان نمیشود.
The Baptism - "گنتر" زمین داری است که پس از خودکشی زن اولش، دختری به نام سوسانا را به همسری میگیرد اما سوسانا هم از بی رحمی های گنتر فراری میشود. حالا گنتر میخواهد با طلاق غیابی سوسانا، خواهرش پرل که چهارده ساله است را به همسری برگزیند. اما برای ثبت طلاق و ازدواج مجدد میباید گنتر غسل تعمید داده شود. آیا میبایست کشیش در سردترین روزهای زمستان مراسم تعمید را انجام دهد؟
⭐️Suburbia - پدر در تولد 15 سالگی دخترش با او شرط میبندد که دختر در هجده سالگی خانه را ترک میکند و هرگز بر نمیگردد. در هجده سالگی همین اتفاق می افتد. دختر پس از چند سال مستقب زندگی کردن به دور از خانه و پدر و مادرش زیر قولش میزند و به خانه ی پدرش بر میگردد. اما خانه دیگر اندازه ی قبل نیست. چندین بار کوچکتر شده است. داستان نمادین و سمبولیک.
A Prairie Wife - زنی به نام کریستن معتاد به پیگیری اخبار یک سلبریتی دنیای مجازی به نام لوسی است. لوسی مشهور و موفق است. کریستن در زمان تحصیل دانش آموزی در کمپ تابستانی سابقه ی سک س با لوسی داشته .
Whose Heart I Long to Stop with the Click of a Revolver - دختری دوازساله و تیره پوست که سالها قبل از خانه فرار کرده و توسط مردی بالغ مراقبت میشود و همچنین مورد سو استفاده جنسی قرار گرفته و از آن مرد فرزندِ دختری هم به دنیا آورده، حالا بعد از 18 سال با دخترش روبرو میشود. دختر سر و وضع عجیب و تمایلات همجنسگرایانه دارد و دل خوشی هم از مادرش ندارد.
What a Terrible Thing it Was - دختری از یک خانواده مهاجر آسیایی در اثر مرگ (حلق آویز شدن) دوستش دچار مشکلات روحی روانی و سیزوفرنی شده است. دکتر برای او شوک الکتریکی تجویز میکند و او باید تصمیم بگیرد که این درمان را انجام دهد یا خیر. همزمان انتخابات همراه با ترس مهاجرین از انتخاب یکی از نامزدها در آمریکا در حال انجام است.
I had the same problem with the 2018 edition of The Best American Short Stories that I had with the 2018 edition of The Best American Poetry: a disturbing feeling that something other than the quality and strength of writing was the driving concern in the editors’ decision-making process. That problem is even more severe in the short story collection than it was in the poetry collection. I can’t believe that this volume, inclusive and representative though it may be, comes anywhere near giving us the best work published in American and Canadian periodicals during 2017.
Thank goodness for the few accomplished and engaging stories that survived a questionable if well intended editorial process, including for this reader the finest story in the collection, Dina Nayeris’s “A Big True”, and Yoon Chois’s five-star “The Art of Losing,” a deeply affecting story in which an old man’s memory is being taken by Alzheimer’s Disease. That the title of Chois’s story would appear to be borrowed from a poem by Elizabeth Bishop suggests a level of literary awareness in this writer that is absent in many of the others, even though a lot of them have been around MFA writing programs. Those two stories and a couple of others redeem an otherwise disappointing gathering.
To be fair, some stories that didn’t finally work for me still had their moments. In Ann Glaviano’s quirky epistolary story “Come On, Silver,” set in a bizarre summer camp for girls, Glaviano captures the rigors and complications of adolescence: “Summer used to be simple. I used to want simple things, like small marshmallows from the jar in my mother’s kitchen. I would squish them into tiny pancakes between my thumb and forefinger and eat them one by one.” Coming to that is a delight.
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. I wish Roxanne Gay was appointed permanent editor because she did a fantastic job of choosing diverse stories by diverse authors that are each, individually, impressive and yet, somehow, cohesive as a collection, effectively smashing the ridiculous (and racist/sexist) notion that prioritizing marginalized voices sacrifices... well... anything.
My favorites were numerous: The Art of Losing, Los Angeles, What Got into Us, Control Negro, A Big True, Suburbia!, The Prairie Wife, Whose Heart I Long to Stop..., What a Terrible Thing is Was
A perfect collection with which to end a tumultuous, chaotic year—collected with care for readers who give a fuck about giving a fuck.
This was such a strong and salient collection of stories and all really different. I love that Roxane Gay chose stories to collectively represent & explore America as it is now (in all its horrific dysfunction) rather than just choose some great short stories.
My favorites, in order of appearance: -Boys Go to Jupiter -Everything is Far from Here -Control Negro -The Brothers Brujo -Items Awaiting Protective Enclosure -Whose Heart I Long to Stop with the Click of a Revolver -What Terrible Thing It Was
The authors' explanations of their inspiration for the selected stories were the perfect palate cleansers between stories! -
I've never thought that I'd become such an addict that as soon as October comes, I always feel compelled to read the anthology of the given year, even though I haven't been blown away by anything I've read here in the past several years.
The last time I found a great short story in this series was in 2013 (and I keep re-reading that story, Encounters with Unexpected Animals, ever since, though I never looked up anything else by its author), and though in the years since then, I kept on reading the anthology every year, I was never completely enchanted by anything I read here.
This anthology is just the same every single year - mostly a collection of smart and carefully written, politically very correct, but not exactly world- or perception-changing stories by writers who can, by the way, really write - and it's the same this year, too. And I hate the feeling that: "Yeah, I've seen this already" - because there's so much I haven't yet seen, and I'd rather be reading about that which I haven't seen.
The only change I noticed this year was that stories from The New Yorker weren't present in such an overwhelming proportion, and there was more room for stories which originally appeared in smaller publications. (Even though I'm aware that The New Yorker has a huge tradition and reputation in publishing good short stories, I felt it a bit too much that in many recent years, perhaps even 5 or 6 out of the 20 stories here came from The New Yorker - it gave the collection a very elitist feel.)
And of course, even this year, there were many good stories (as always), but there wasn't a single great and amazing and outright perfect one here, and I don't feel any of these stories will stick with me.
I don't even know why I keep reading the anthology every year - I got a feeling some years ago that I was probably not going to come across anything life-changing here - still, I'll probably read it next year, too. (Because I just can't forget that it was in this anthology that I first read something by Jennifer Egan, who subsequently became the postmodern goddess of my heart. That was back in 2011, still - I keep hoping that one year, I'm going to find something as breathtaking and great and heartbreaking as her short story, Out of Body, was in that year's book. I'm waiting to be captivated by a best American short story again.)
I don't know how to give a star rating to this since I didn't read every story. Am I allowed to post a review without stars? I thought Roxane Gay wrote a great introduction and the stories seemed well chosen. It's the fault of my attention span that I only read a few from start to finish. My favorites were A Family by Jamel Brinkley, Los Angeles by Emma Cline, and Boys Go to Jupiter by Danielle Evans.
I just realized I returned it to the library with a post it note by the table of contents. I was trying to keep track of which ones I had read and liked or didn't like. I hope the next person doesn't mind my notes!
A diverse and fascinating selection of American stories, all superbly writter with very few misses (for me). Personal favs were Boys Go to Jupiter by Danielle Evans (a deep dive into racism and responsibility); Unearth by Alicia Elliott (exploring the trauma and legacy of residential schools); Good with Boys by Kristen Iskandrian (a beautifully simple coming-of-age story set in a museum); A Big True by Dina Nayeri (looking at immigration and changes in status it brings, but also the concept of living a free and creative life); and Whose Heart I Long to Stop with a the Click of a Revolver (again about inter-generational trauma, but also about power and guns).
Rated for the story Control Negro by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson. Read by LeVar Burton on the Selected Shorts episode "An Evening with LeVar Burton" from September 2021. Slow-gut-punch powerful and very, very good.
“if writers have a responsibility for how they narrate the world, certainly readers have a responsibility for what they consume and from whom.” —roxane gay
i’ve seen quite a few “reviews” online about this collection. many citing that the stories are “too political” and that they reflect too deeply of roxane gay’s own political leanings—and maybe they do. however, we all know the real problem here isn’t how political these stories may, or may not be; it’s the lack of empathy in the people reading them. it seems that the people who are complaining about the political suggestiveness of these stories really have a problem with reading narratives of the so called “other” and don’t want to admit it. maybe the world isn’t coming apart for them, but as gay stated in her introduction, “for many vulnerable people, the world is coming apart” and attention needs to be paid to these occurrences, to these stories. yet, many people still want the mindless, white washed neatness of certain narratives—ones where they do not have to see the current reality of this country reflected. they want stories that they can lose themselves in and not remember how heartless they might have been at the polls, or on that last facebook comment, or tweet. they want their privilege to continue protecting them from the very real people they disregard because those stories and experiences are not their own—and in my opinion, that is precisely why roxane gay put this collection together the way she did. so the untold stories of all those “others” could seep through the cracks in the wall that the majority are trying so hard to build and blind themselves with.
now, my actual thoughts on the collection of stories: they were diverse. they showed me the different ways in which short stories can be written. how certain narratives can surprise you. there were a few that were alright, and not very impressive, but overall this is a very solid and intriguing collection and anyone that says they’re "pandering" to cultural commentary or the political tone detracts from the actual level of skill isn't paying attention. i'll be returning to this collection in the future.
Such an impressive collection of stories this year! Some familiar names, some exciting brand new ones for me.
An underlying question for this collection is can fiction keep up with real life? Does it have the ability to compete with the often ridiculous and flabbergasting reality we live in? I'd argue that this year's collection not only proves fiction's power but also gives a strong reassertion of it's need in the world.
Roxane Gay, you did readers a big big service with this one.
I don't think I've ever had a reaction to an volume of this anthology quite like this before. I didn't find any story to be boring. I do think a couple of the stories were relatively shrug worthy--decently written but not deserving of the "best" title. I'm specifically thinking of "Los Angeles" by Emma Cline (which surprised me, cos I remember really liking her story last year!) and "The Baptism" by Ron Rash. And some stories I did see as a little too focused on the "political" and not focused enough on the art. "Unearth" by Alicia Elliot was harrowing but rushed and "What Terrible Thing It Was" by Esme Weijun Wang bit off a little more than it could chew.
I'm walking a thin line here, because I agree very much with Roxanne Gay's introduction statement where she asserts "And then there are those writers, such as myself, who believe hat the very act of writing from their subject position is political, regardless of what they write." To paraphrase Thomas Wagner from one of his BookTube videos at SFF180: unless your message is "hi mom!," you are writing from the perspective of your identity, biases, experience and yes, politics. Because "politics" is about more than what's being discussed on Cspan.
Granted, the big politics loom large in many of our minds. Series editor Heidi Pitlor recounted in her forward all of the stuff that was going on within days of writing it--from air strikes in Syria, Black customers being arrested at a Starbucks for no legitimate reason, and the raiding of Michael Cohen's office. So of course this will be reflected in our literature. But it's a lot to absorb, perhaps. I didn't dislike any of these stories, but I'm not sure I fell head over heels for any of them, either.
So I'll return to one of Pitlor's 2018 quotes: "The stories in this book offer readers a passageway inside contemporary and age-old questions of what it means to live together in a society, as well as what it takes to define and sustain oneself in difficult times." I'll try and use this as my guide as I highlight the stories that stuck out most to me.
"Cougar" by Maria Anderson (The Iowa Review): The writing here struck me as the most polished. It's the story of a young man abandoned by his father in his small, nowhere midwestern town, and about a cougar terrorizing the area. I was gripped by the longing for the disappeared and gripped by my contrasting opinions of the cougar. The writing was very descriptive, especially Jenny's rat tail hairdo that grew as he shrank.
"A Family" by Jamel Brinkley (The Gulf Coast): This is a "found family" story where Curtis, fresh out of jail for vehicular manslaughter, looks in on his old friend Marvin's widow and son. I thought the characters were strong and the backstory was meaty and explored. But I found the narrative writing style to be a little too cloying.
"The Art of Losing" by Yoon Choi (New England Review): A dual narrative story about an elderly man with dementia and his elderly wife who, unknown to others, is suffering from her own ailment. The thing that makes me furrow my eyebrow is why their kids let the grandchildren stay with them alone. But then again, that's the difference between internal and external behavior.
"Boys Go to Jupiter" by Danielle Evans (The Sewanee Review): I'm probably most biased about this story because I'm niggling with an overtly political story of my own that might be similar in some aspects. This is the story of Claire, a shallow white college student who gets herself embroiled in controversy when a boyfriend posts a picture of her in a Confederate flag bikini. It's about how social media and the collegiate environment responds to this controversy, and about why Claire makes it worse for herself. I do think her backstory could have scaled back just slightly on the drama.
"Good with Boys" by Kristen Iskandrian (ZYZZYVA): This is a simple storytelling style, with the narrator being in middle school on a class field trip. It's basically about the jumbled emotions of a first crush and trying to define your sexuality. I love the juxtaposition of Jill's knowledge and her inner desires. And I like how she handled the Esau/Adam relationship, too, though I'm not sure I buy a Jewish family naming their son "Esau." :P
"Control Negro" by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (Guernica): The main character, Cornelius, is stunningly (and believably, for his character,) cold as he orchestrates his far-off son's life to be the "control negro" in an amateur social science experiment against privileged white boys. The epistolary style leant some emotional gravitas to the endeavor. What grabs me most about this story is how what Curtis is doing, orchestrating his son's life, is similar to what police do to Black men--assuming and then forcing these damning narratives onto them. I'd never thought of police brutality against Black men in that way before. Both a teachable and a creatively resonant story.
"A Big True" by Dina Nayeri (The Southern Review): A story where the father is the itinerant artist and the daughter is the stoic, grounded child. Also about the power of social media--it's utility vs "the spirit, the sweeping reach." Rahdad is an Iranian-American sitar player who lives in a YMCA with other creative souls, while his grown daughter keeps her distance. I found myself on "team Rahdad" about the meaning of life, and I was also taken with the character of Wyatt, whose squirrelly demeanor comes into focus as the story goes along.
"The Prairie Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld (The New Yorker): Perhaps in tandem with "Good with Boys," this is the story of middle aged sexuality. Protagonist Kristen is tracking an old lover who became a celebrity and is presumably leading a hypocritical life. As the story goes on most of the characters deepen, and it becomes a more obvious reflection about how people change and how they stay the same. I like that it even encompassed a little bit of mom and work life. And as always, I'm thrilled that more writers are probing how social media shapes public and private discourse.
A collection of 20 short stories that were published in American and Canadian magazines that were selected by author Roxane Gay. My favorites: a Big True by Dina Nayeri about Rahad, a wandering father who seems a disappointment to his daughter who is content living a bland, routine life. Couger - about living in isolation on the edge of society thinking of but not quite able to give it up. and Items Awaiting Protective Enclosure - Syl remembering her past life of searching for Elk spells (cast-off antlers) with Wade Dufrane. I found The Baptism pretty disturbing. As always with this series, I enjoy the authors notes in which they explain the idea or origin if the story. Since most are acclaimed writers of novels or story collections, I find myself adding books that I will want to read. My next endeavor will be to catch up on some of the older of this series.
There’s good reason for me to trust Roxane Gay’s opinion. The choices she made when compiling this 2018 edition of BASS were impeccable. This book is a literary capsule of relationships, fears, and issues specifically relevant to the year 2018. It also is a collection of well crafted, beautifully reflective short stories that leave your heart going *thud thud*.
My two favorite stories are: “What Got Into Us” a tragedy about boyhood, brotherhood, secrets, and queerness, and “The Prairee Wife” about grudges, longing, middle-age insecurities, and coming of age sexual exploration.
this selection was hit-or-miss for me, which i should have expected since Gay is usually hit-or-miss for me too (love her short stories, have never really loved her memoirs or essays). while i wasn't really drawn to the majority of these, i think "Everything is Far from Here" should be required reading for every single human on this planet right now.
The stories were often very heavy. Hard to read many in one sitting. Great to discuss with book club, but also kind of hard week after week. We stopped about halfway through and I read the rest myself.
Favorites: Unearth Boys Go to Jupiter Come On, Silver The Brothers Brujo The Prairie Wife
This is one of the better Best American volumes in recent memory. Roxane Gay clearly went out of her way to represent groups that are normally underrepresented in American publishing, and the result is a collection which features several superb stories.
Makes me want to read the anthology every year. Loaded with brilliant fiction but here are my personal (and very subjective) favorites:
1. The Art of Losing, Yoon Choi 2. Items Awaiting Protective Enclosure, Téa Obreht 3. What Got Into Us, Jacob Guajardo 4. The Prairie Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld 5. A Big True, Dina Nayeri 6. Control Negro, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson 7. Cougar, Maria Anderson 8. Whose Heart I Long to Stop with the Click of a Revolver, Rivers Solomon
Yes, this collection is exactly as diverse as you'd expect with Roxanne Gay making the selection. But not just because they represent the mind boggling variety of individuals out there (and I'm sure this is in fact more reflective of the actual variety of voices out there). These are simply all magnificent short stories, not the usual 50/50 like-too-dislike ratio in short story collections in my experience. There was only one where I thought, 'meh'. I've inhabited so many versions of American lives in this book, it was a splendid ride!
When I saw that Roxane Gay was the editor for 2018, this became a must buy. I love short stories and trust her taste implicitly when it comes to deciding which books I'd like to read during the regular year. But I was pretty underwhelmed with this collection as representative of the best of 2018, if I'm being honest. I'm not sure I considered the fact that Gay's interest in pop culture/cultural criticism would result in a book that feels very "of the now" - by which I mean that in 20 years, stories about Twitter and the consequences of current social media gone viral are going to feel dated, and direct or indirect references to the election of Donald Trump will lose their potency. For this reason also, I was both intrigued and made apprehensive by Gay's introduction stating that all 20 of these stories were a form of creative political expression.
When it comes down to it, my feeling about this selection of stories is a matter of taste. I loved exactly three of the stories ("The Art of Losing" by Yoon Choi, "What Got Into Us" by Jacob Guajardo, and "The Brothers Brujo" by Matthew Lyons) because they dealt with the stated political concepts in a more universal, subtler way, I guess, than others and were also exceptionally constructed and well-written. "A Family" by Jamel Brinkley is also very good. I can see why most of the other stories were included, but I was also left wondering about the other 100 that were not selected. If the list at the end of the book is the entire selection pool, apparently those stories included works by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lauren Groff, and T.C. Boyle, among others - and you know damn well those folks can write a story.
But this is Gay's curation, and I'm not surprised by it knowing what I know of her. Her desire for more diversity of perspectives in this series is an emphatic yes. I hope that trend is set for 2019 and beyond.
I like this series of anthologies generally and was keen to read one edited by Roxane Gay, since I had read a couple of her books last year. I found the collection pretty uneven, though. I don't recall any stories that I felt overwhelmingly positive about (in other words, none inspired a "wow" from me), and there were several that I felt very meh about and a couple that I was surprised were published in respectable magazines much less collected in a "best" anthology. I did dog-ear a few as worthwhile:
* "Los Angeles" by Emma Cline * "Boys Go to Jupiter" by Danielle Evans * "A History of China" by Carolyn Ferrell * "A Big True" by Dina Nayeri * "Items Awaiting Protective Enclosure" by Tea Obreht
This was an outstanding collection, not that I would expect anything less from the 2018 editor, Roxane Gay. The short story has become perfect for my lunch break, and I'm glad I finally figured out how to incorporate it into my reading schedule because I have read so many great pieces and learned of new writers that I otherwise would not have. From this collection I especially enjoyed: Cougar / Maria Anderson, Unearth / Alicia Elliott, Everything is far from here / Cristina Henríquez, Good with boys / Kristen Iskandrian, The baptism / Ron Rash, What terrible thing it was / Esmé Weijun Wang.