July: A Summer of Shorts

The long awaited summer blog special event is here!

I am taking a break from my usual BookRiot pound to dedicate the month of July to shorts.  I have a ton of collections of shorts, and every writer is made aware of the value of shorts in building his or her career, so I thought I would dedicate a month to getting through that part of the TBR as well as absorbing wisdom and artistry from the masters.

I have read a TON of short stories in my time where I have truly wondered what makes them great.  I bought a book from Writer’s Digest on how to write and understand what truly makes a good short story good, and it has helped understand the role of the element of surprise (and I’m not even done with it, so I’m sure there’s more to learn).  In the books I am reviewing today and through the month, these have surprised me but also pressed boundaries, made me rethink the mundane and the basic structures I have taken for granted, and gotten right in my face with issues facing society.

I can’t say I have exactly enjoyed reading them the whole way through, however.

ayiti.jpg

Ayiti, Roxane Gay

This is a collection of her shorts published in other places all centered on the idea of Haiti and being an immigrant from Haiti to the US, or straddling the two worlds.

I love Roxane Gay, and although I have not been good at really getting my Twitter game off the ground, I have unabashedly logged on to see what she has to say.  Like when she tweeted that she dates women because she loves herself and when she’s freaking out about Ryan Seacrest.  True to form, she gave this book five stars on Goodreads.  I admire her because she has a fast tongue with an intelligent argument always perched at the tip.  I admire her intelligence and her unapologetic intensity.

Due to these things I don’t know why I ever thought I’d get through Ayiti easily, other than the audio is less than three hours long.  I was like oh wow TBR anyway and under three hours! Done in a snap for my July of Shorts.  Right.  Some of the books I am posting on for the Halloweeny reads are breaks from this book.  Granted work has been an especial challenge this month with assuming a coordinator position in the absence of my boss, which might have also amplified the need for diversion, but Ayiti is tough.  Beautiful, but tough.  In your face with the issues that are integral to some people’s lives. A woman in one story, an MD no less, is kidnapped and trafficked on her honeymoon. The reality of poverty in Haiti still.  The difficulty in going for a better life and trying to fit into the world of the better life, going between being an American but going back to Haitian roots on vacations.  I know why BookRiot encourages people to read about the immigrant experience. So we don’t get too comfy in our white privilege seats.  It’s a great collection of stories, but they aren’t easy.  Don’t let the two hours fool you.

the birthday of the world.jpg

The Birthday of the World and Other Stories, Ursula K. LeGuin

The late Ursula K. Le Guin has been hailed as a founder of speculative fiction, and this collection of shorts was no exception.  I noticed the stories in this collection are heavily influenced by cultural anthropology, feminism and Eastern philosophy, and I’m sure more things that I missed.  They are stories involving different family structures and inclusive of all sexual inclinations and make comments about ways that society could be set up differently.  The meaning of sexuality and inequality in these stories is what stood out to me most.

There is  no doubt that she has brilliant ideas brilliantly expressed.  And I have been scanning over Goodreads reviews by people with educational backgrounds in the very areas where she bores holes with her stories who are duly impressed.  But in some ways, this collection was not entirely for me.   I don’t know if I needed a more personal spin on stories, if they were too wide in scope for me or what. The stories were told from the point of views of individual characters, but I found myself disconnected at times, and very interested at other times with my thoughts stirred up.  At times I was ready for it to be done and at other times I wondered truly what it would be like to have a society where men were cosseted and put aside from the real world of women, or what it would be like to have four way marriages instead of two, or what it would be like to be in a world where children were not given clothes to wear until the age of seven.

It was a similar push pull that I experienced while reading A Wizard of Earthsea.

But for not even 20 hours of listening, these two books were a lot of time and work.  Effort.  Other books that were more escapism than facts of immigration, inequality and sexuality out there for all the thinking, crept in for consideration.

Maybe I just have a lot going on.

In other news my birthday was last week and in a glut of Amazon money I procured way more ebooks than a lady should ever admit to.  A true lady. I’m not one of those so I can safely say I think I bought 18.  In my defense some of them were for the seasons of holiday reads coming up, when shorts and BookRiot are taken care of.  Maybe there is no defense at all.  I did get a real bed for my dog though and I probably got one that was too small that I will have to exchange but I didn’t think of only myself.  Just mostly.

Shorts will continue at least through July.  I still need to read categories I have been procrastinating for BookRiot and I usually start racking up the scary reads in August to post on for the fall.

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