Seven Short Story Collections by Writers of Color
By Vida James | Friday, March 27, 2020
By Vida James
Friday, March 27, 2020
In school my assigned readings were usually by white men of European descent. We read Homer and Shakespeare and Steinbeck and Salinger. We read Orwell and Dickens and Fitzgerald - writers who didn’t look like me, or my family, or my friends. What I liked to read, then, didn’t feel as serious or important as a white author who we referred to by last name.
Later, I found my way toward writers of a different color and stripe - people from Africa and Asia and Latin America, writers who voiced what it meant to be a person of color in the United States. Writers who wove stories about ghosts and folklore and family traumas, who wrote the hard and absurd of immigration and racism, whose stories broke my heart over and over again. In reading them, I learned about myself and the world. I learned about myself in the world.
And so, I want to recommend some of those writers, who are just as serious as the ones I read in school, even if they aren’t yet known by only their last names. And because short stories are a chance to meet more people and see more worlds, here is a quick list of short story collections I loved, and not a European man in sight (they’re on plenty of other lists).
1. Things We Lost in The Fire - Mariana Enriquez
This fiction collection by an Argentinan journalist uses horror to comment on the lingering traumas of dictatorship. These quick, creepy stories feature ghosts and demons, both supernatural and familiar.
2. The Refugees - Viet Thanh Nguyen
This pulitzer prize winning author put together this collection of stories he had written over decades. They are beautifully told, about Vietnamese immigration, about families, and love, and what it means to be between places.
3. What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky - Lesley Nneka Arimah
This Nigerian author’s collection of short stories are as diverse as her imagination. Some folklore, some family drama, some science fiction - all packed with creativity and an emotional punch.
4. Her Wild American Self - M. Evelina Galang
This Filipina-American author from Chicago tells stories of young women, of immigrant families, of city-living. The way she writes is as fierce and wild as the title.
5. Monstress - Lysley Tenorio
This collection of stories by a Filipino author has a dreamy quality. Each story is beautiful, as they follow life in the Philippines, queerness and the immigrant experience, and play with humor and emotion.
6. The Thing Around Your Neck - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This Nigerian author is perhaps best known for her cameo in Beyonce’s song ‘Flawless,’ but she is so much more than a sample. This rich collection of short stories takes place in both Nigeria and the US, with themes of migration, marriage, civil war, and family.
7. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere - ZZ Packer
Perhaps the funniest author on this list, this collection follows the Black American experience through the mundane, absurd, and horrible. Each story carefully brings about emotion, tension, and humor.