Staff Pick

As innovative with the short story as she is with the novel, Zadie Smith in her first collection, Grand Union (Penguin Press, $27), features her trademark realism—with extended profiles of a recovering opioid addict struggling to reclaim his name, family, and position and an aging drag queen venting decades of frustration with a corset seller—along with pieces that dissect the clash between well-meaning political correctness and real lives. Other stories ride the line between satire and parable, with several exploring issues of colonialism and classism, while another poses as
a manual of narrative techniques to question standard literary elements such as plot, character, and, “the aim and purpose of all stories,” the moral imperative that the author “stir empathy”—which Smith presents as merely a “bowl…filled with a thick, dark, swirly liquid.” Meanwhile, Smith’s speculative fictions show us worlds where elites, after a brief training in “empathy for the dispossessed,” become part of the technology they control and leave the benighted behind. Largely driven by tone, these stories are by turns angry, ironic, and funny; they are always challenging and uncompromising, as Smith and her characters try to sort out “how much of this was reality? How much delusion? It was the question of the age.”

Grand Union: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525558996
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Press - October 8th, 2019

Staff Pick

This long-awaited collection about love, family, and community proves once again that Edwidge Danticat is a force to be reckoned with in the land of the short story. Everything Inside (Knopf, $25.95) is quiet but powerful, full of loss and grief, but also of humanity. The stories are written with great care and packed with simple but utterly perfect sentences; Danticat is a master of economy, but also of building worlds and bringing faraway lands to life, from Miami, Florida, to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Kidnappings, earthquakes, divorce, and even death are catalysts that test each character’s resolve, but no scene is overly dramatic or painfully tragic—there is pain, but it is realistic, sometimes even ordinary. In the story “Dosas,” a character named Elsie encapsulates the whole of this collection in her statement that “Some people just want to go home, no matter what the cost." Home is at the heart of each story in Everything Inside, and, as for so
many of us, its meaning spans oceans and often isn’t a physical location at all.

Everything Inside: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525521273
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - August 27th, 2019

Staff Pick

By way of Katya, a novelist and fortyish mother of two, Lara Vapnyar delivers “a very dark comedy,” one charting Katya’s complicated love life, her adjustment to Brooklyn after a childhood in the USSR, and her struggle to become a fiction writer. The heart of Divide Me by Zero (Tin House, $24.95) is Katya’s relationship with her “hero of heroes”—her mother. A widow and mathematician, Katya’s mother wrote textbooks for children before she immigrated, and late in life she decides to produce one for adults. But she dies of cancer before she’s done more than assemble twenty “flash cards” with theories and formulas. Katya, torn up by grief and facing the end of her marriage, uses these cards to structure the “self-help math book” that becomes the story of her own life. And she knows her life could use some structure. Married to a man she no longer loves, pining after the man she’s loved since she was seventeen, and trying to be swept off her feet by a Putinera “Russian Gatsby,” Katya feels she lives an Escher life in an Escher house: the parts look normal, but won’t work together. If her search for a rational basis for emotions doesn’t make her “immune to the craziness of love,” it introduces readers to a character as delightful and unpredictable as she is passionate and smart.

Divide Me By Zero Cover Image
ISBN: 9781947793422
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Tin House Books - October 15th, 2019