Finding myself in a reading slump lately and not being able to stay focused on a novel for long, I turned to one of the well-known cures for reading slumps and short attention span: short stories. I was glad to find a few good ones on my shelf already, but I wanted to read more of those written by POC authors. So, what better way to seek them than getting recommendations from reliable, trust-worthy bibliophiles. If you are, like me, hunting for some good short story collections written by POC authors, here are six that came highly recommended, some of which I have read and can attest to its rave reviews.
Land of Big Numbers is a collection of 10 short stories about the lives of the Chinese and Chinese American people. Many in the collection stood out, like ‘Lulu’, which is about twins who took different career paths to a professional gamer and a political activist with very surprising endings; ‘New Fruit’ features a fruit, its orange-red, flesh velvety and luxurious tasted so good the whole town fell in love with it, but one day when the fruit was no longer sold and nobody could consume it, it got everyone feeling on the edge; and ‘Gubeiko Spirit’, which I find, is the strongest in the collection and it reminded me of a Tom Hanks movie, The Terminal. In this story, a group of train passengers get stranded and stuck in a train station and were finding ways to survive and adapt to their new environment. The stories were altogether insightful, thought-provoking, and well-written. Te-Ping Chen is a fiction writer and journalist. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Granta and Tin House. She is a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Philadelphia who was previously based in Beijing and Hong Kong.
Home Remedies by Xuan Juliana Wang
A collection of 12 stories, divided into subjects of family, love, and time and space. This collection is billed as centering on the Chinese millennial experience, and while I’m not, I was still able to relate to the stories and I thought they were very well-written. They all had a different tone, with distinctive voices and touched numerous themes. Like many short story collections, some were better than others. If you’re looking for short stories with satisfying endings, check this one out. It was really a joy to read, and I was surprised to know that this is the author’s debut. Xuan Juliana Wang was born in Heilongjiang, China, and moved to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and received her MFA from Columbia University.
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
This has been in my TBR for quite some time and coincidentally, it came highly recommended by a bibliophile whose taste in books I share. She thought it was a very memorable and powerful collection of stories. I was further convinced after reading a review by Roxanne Gay, who described the book as “razor sharp, ready to cut deep”. This collection of 12 stories centers around the themes of violence, racism, police violence and injustice. Despite its serious themes, the collection was also described as funny and hopeful. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is from Spring Valley, New York. He graduated from SUNY Albany and went on to receive his MFA from Syracuse University.
What It Means When A Man Falls from The Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
Another book that has garnered rave reviews. A debut collection of 12 stories with some magical realism sprinkled in them, they ‘explore the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home.’ All stories are in relations to Nigeria. Its titular, judging from Goodreads, is a strong favourite. It’s about ‘a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to “fix the equation of a person” with rippling, unforeseen repercussions’. The author Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK, and her work has received grants and awards from Commonwealth Writers, AWP, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Jerome Foundation and others. She currently lives in Minneapolis.
If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel
Another debut short story collection that consists of 11 stories, following characters of first-generation Indian Americans who are trying to find meaningful relationships. The stories ‘examine the collisions of old world and new world, small town and big city, traditional beliefs (like arranged marriage) and modern rituals (like Facebook stalking). There’s love and betrayal, passion and regret, and characters dealing with identity, racism and marital problems. I’ve just started reading the first two stories, and I loved ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna’, while ‘God of Destruction’ not so much because the woman’s voice I felt, was rather unconvincing. Since it’s only 224 pages, I’m looking forward to reading the rest. Neel Patel is a screenwriter and an author who grew up in Champaign, Illinois. His writing has appeared in Elle India, The Paris Review, on Buzzfeed.com, and more.
Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Looks like the gorgeous cover lived up to its expectations judging from its an average of close-to 5-star ratings on Goodreads. It was also named one of the Best Books of The Year by The New York Public Library. Set against the backdrop of Denver, Colorado, these 11 stories centered around the themes of motherhood, families, poverty, and violence. I love stories about feminine power and people from different cultures. And the fact that this book came highly recommended to me, by not one, but two readers, I’m going to give it a try. The author is from Denver, Colorado and received her MFA from University of Wyoming.