Fleeting and flighty, I used to say that I hated short stories. At university they left me dissatisfied and disappointed, with only the next academic reading to read, annotate and reflect upon. As I grew up, so has my patience, and I’ve found magic in short story collections, particularly those by female authors. These collections are ones that are expertly executed—somehow, each singular story is perfect on its own, but nestled within a collection, they transform and take on a new life. Each collection is truly original and the stories that these women tell, like all stories told by women, must be heard.
What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Secret libraries, locked gardens, and guerrilla book clubs! What is Not Yours is Not Yours is tied together with keys—the physical objects themselves, and keys as metaphors (keys to fame, one’s heart, a parent). Bound perfectly with a naked spine and gilt lettering, the stories dip into the surreal whilst remaining solidly in reality.
My best friend and I spent an entire evening talking about this book. It was exhausting. In a world where women’s voices and stories demand to be heard, Machado presents them in a truly real and devastating way. This collection is compulsively readable.
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Like many others, I’m sure, I first encountered Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work in Beyonce’s Flawless, in which Adichie’s calm but powerful voice schools listeners on Feminism, “Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes.” These words are sampled from her TED Talk We Should All Be Feminists, and after watching it, I moved quickly onto The Danger of a Single Story in which she explores the notion of story telling and the importance to seek multiple stories within cultures in order to ensure we are not understanding an entire group of people based on one story. Her short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck does just this—gives us multiple narratives of Nigeria with beauty and wisdom.
Attrib by Eley Williams
Oh my god. Possibly the best short story collection I have ever read. Surreal and experimental, Attrib muses on language and word play. It is about books and communication and words, and how, as human beings, we attempt to navigate our lives with words as our most powerful and futile instruments.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
What does it mean to be a difficult woman? Is it a social construct, a label that the patriarchy puts upon us in order to silence or demean us? This question is asked in Roxane’s stories of women who are face difficulty in their lives on a daly basis. Being difficult shouldn’t be an insult, or a reason to be embarrassed, being difficult should be celebrated.
Want more short story collections? Check out our full archive here.