We knew late, great Toni Morrison as a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. She published just one short story in her lifetime. That’s why we’re so excited that rare gem, “Recitatif,” was just released in hardcover form for the first time. Best-selling author of White Teeth, Zadie Smith, who wrote the introduction, called it, “A puzzle of a story, then — a game … When [Morrison] called “Recitatif” an ‘experiment’ she meant it. The subject of the experiment is the reader.” The story follows two girls from childhood into adulthood. One is white, and one is Black, but Morrison never identifies which is which, challenging readers to examine their perceptions of what race is. We’re confident that the outcome of this experiment will be an increased appetite for short stories! Short stories can pack a powerful punch. To give you the chance to discover new writers, or at least some who are new to you, we’ve listed collections of tales that are just as deep, engrossing and entertaining as full-length novels, but can be read in a fraction of the time.
The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer
by Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe released her debut album, The ArchAndroid, in 2010. It was very apparent at the outset that she was destined for more, from her penchant for stark black and white fashion to her notable turns in the films Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Antebellum. When her Grammy-nominated album Dirty Computer landed in 2018, she solidified her status as an Afrofuturist. Inspired by that groundbreaking project is a collaborative short story collection, The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer. Working alongside literary talents like Sheree Renée Thomas, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore and more, Monáe explores a world in which she seems very comfortable: bold, iconic and visionary. As she told People magazine, "Sci-fi and Afrofuturism have nurtured my imagination for many moons. It's an honor to be working in these genres to create stories that I hope make all the dirty computers around the world feel seen." The Memory Librarian is an experimental work focusing on memory, humanity, liberation and freedom, inspiring readers to look beyond themselves to something much bigger than our human existence.
Disruption: New Short Fiction From Africa
edited by Jason Mykl Snyman, Karina M. Szczurek and Rachel Zadok
The authors who contributed to Disruption: New Short Fiction From Africa cover a range of genres, including dystopian and sci-fi, but the themes are ones that Black people across the globe can relate to. "Shelter" is award-winning Zambian author Mbozi Haimbe’s story about motherhood and the lengths parents will go to protect their children, while "Five Years Next Sunday," by Kenyan writer Idza Luhumyo, puts a hair-raising spin on a battle of the sexes. Contributors include some of the brightest African voices, as well as emerging voices. The stories sprinkled throughout this collection demonstrate how people adapt to disruption in their lives, even when change seems dire. It's a perfect anthology for readers who like a little of the fantastical in their literature, but recognize how fiction often hits very close to home.
The Last Suspicious Holdout
by Ladee Hubbard
Award-winning author of The Talented Ribkins and The Rib King, Ladee Hubbard is back with a short story collection. Some of the characters in The Last Suspicious Holdout hop from one tale to another in these interconnected stories of neighbors in one community. “There He Go” explores the way a young girl who never knew her grandfather creates her own faultless version of him as a way to create stability in an unstable home life. “Bitch: An Etymology of Family Values” is a tale as old as time, intermingling the lives of a wife and the other woman. The author's deft use of language isn't surprising, considering that Morrison was her mentor. Hubbard described the late Nobel laureate as "a wonderful teacher, very open to my various experiments at the time." Above all, despite the societal injustices and longstanding issues that plague them, the characters — like Black people everywhere — showcase a resilience that shines.
A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times
by Meron Hadero
Winner of the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2021, Ethiopian-American author Meron Hadero's collection, A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, focuses on those who have been displaced or are searching for a place they can call home. Immigrants and refugees feature heavily in her work. In "The Suitcase" a woman visiting Ethiopia discovers that the case is more than a simple object. Instead, it serves as a link between her country of origin and America, the place she views as home. While discussing "The Street Sweep" with Africa in Words, Hadero notes that, "I’m drawn to the idea of home, and the characters face the loss of it, or they’re trying to find it, or seek it out, dream of it, fight for it, abandon it, are abandoned by it." Readers will find a sense of connection, home and what it means to truly belong in these touching tales.
Look for Me and I'll Be Gone
by John Edgar Wideman
Award-winning author John Edgar Wideman's publishing career spans seven decades. His latest short story collection, Look for Me and I'll Be Gone, covers familiar themes in his work: urban life, family, race and art with the same lyricism he's known for. In "Separation," a dead man's widow has to make arrangements to pay for the coffin. The author of Damballah, Sent for You Yesterday and Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File — among nearly two dozen other books — writes primarily male characters, and yet his stories are full of strong female voices. “At home, I heard the voices of my mother and other women her age, and older, a kind of call and response," he told Oprah Daily. Perhaps it's this influence that brings to life the mothers, wives and lovers who pepper his work. Although his stories may center on male characters, they cannot be fully realized without the important women who surround them. These short tales will satisfy readers who like a slice of experimental style that encapsulates the varied African American experience.