The African American Experience: Short Story Collections

The African American Experience blog photo

Discover a debut collection or revisit a classic work by a master of the craft. There is sure to be a short story to satisfy whatever your reading interests may be.

Training School for Negro Girls by Camille Aker       

When you’re black and female in America, society’s rules were never meant to make you safe or free. Camille Acker’s relatable yet unexpected characters break down the walls of respectability politics, showing that the only way for black women to be free is to be themselves.                                                                                                                             

Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara 

In these fifteen superb stories, written in a style at once ineffable and immediately recognizable, Toni Cade Bambara gives us compelling portraits of a wide range of unforgettable characters, from sassy children to cunning old men, in scenes shifting between uptown New York and rural North CaroLina                                                                 

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins 

A never-before-published collection of stories from Kathleen Collins. These short stories, discovered only recently, highlight Collins’s masterfully blend of the personal issues– race, gender, family, and sexuality– with the ordinary moments that shape our lives. Also known as an artist and filmmaker, her stories create full-bodied men, women, and children who justify their lives while integrating the African American experience without becoming symbols or token images.                                                                         

The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott 

Deftly spinning genres of his feverish literary invention, Rion Amilcar Scott creates his very own Yoknapatawpha County with fictional Cross River, Maryland. Established by the leaders of America’s only successful slave revolt, the town still evokes the fierce rhythms of its founding. Among its residents are David Sherman, a struggling musician who just happens to be God’s last son; Tyrone, a ruthless PhD candidate, whose dissertation about a childhood game ignites mayhem in the neighboring, once-segregated town of Port Yooga; and Jim, an all-too-obedient robot who serves his Master. Culminating with an explosive novella, these haunting stories of the denizens of Cross River serve to explore larger themes of religion, violence, and love–all told with sly humor and a dash of magical realism.                                                       

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah 

A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it’s like to be young and black in America.                                                                                                      

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay     

A collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail.                                                                                                                           

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires 

This collection interrogates our supposedly post-racial era to wicked and devastating effect, exposing the violence that threatens black Americans, no matter their apparent success.                                                                                                                            

Now We Will Be Happy by Amina Gautier 

A prize-winning collection of stories about Afro-Puerto Ricans, U.S.-mainland-born Puerto Ricans, and displaced native Puerto Ricans who are living between spaces while attempting to navigate the unique culture that defines Puerto Rican identity.                

The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston  

This landmark gathering of Zora Neale Hurston’s short fiction—most of which appeared only in literary magazines during her lifetime—reveals the evolution of one of the most important African American writers. Spanning her career from 1921 to 1955, these stories attest to Hurston’s tremendous range and establish themes that recur in her longer fiction. With rich language and imagery, the stories in this collection not only map Hurston’s development and concerns as a writer but also provide an invaluable reflection of the mind and imagination of the author of the acclaimed novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.                                                  

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat      

From the best-selling author of Claire of the Sea Light and Brother, I’m Dying, a long-awaited return to fiction: a gorgeous collection of stories about community, family and love; about the forces that pull us together or drive us apart–a book rich with vividly imagined characters, hard-won wisdom, and humanity.            

How to Love a Jamacian by Alexia Arthurs 

A debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and Midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.                                                                                                                                                            

What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah 

A dazzlingly accomplished debut collection explores the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home.                                                             

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl    

Showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their indefinable overlappings.   

A Lucky Man: Stories by Jamel Brinkley  

A Lucky Man reflects the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys whose hopes sometimes betray them, especially in a world shaped by race, gender, and class—where luck may be the greatest fiction of all.                                                                                 

All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones  

Returning to the city that inspired his first prizewinning book, Lost in the City, Jones has filled this new collection with people who call Washington, D.C., home. Yet it is not the city’s power brokers that most concern him but rather its ordinary citizens. All Aunt Hagar’s Children turns an unflinching eye to the men, women, and children caught between the old ways of the South and the temptations that await them further north, people who in Jones’s masterful hands, emerge as fully human and morally complex, whether they are country folk used to getting up with the chickens or people with centuries of education behind them.                                                                                                 

Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women compiled by Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka     

A collection of fiction, poems, essays, and short plays explores the life of Black women in American society                                     

Aye, and Gomorrah: Stories by Samuel R. Delany

A father must come to terms with his son’s death in the war. In Venice an architecture student commits a crime of passion. A white southern airport loader tries to do a favor for a black northern child. The ordinary stuff of ordinary fiction–but with a difference! These tales take place twenty-five, fifty, a hundred-fifty years from now, when men and women have been given gills to labor under the sea. Huge repair stations patrol the cables carrying power to the ends of the earth. Telepathic and precocious children so passionately yearn to visit distant galaxies that they’ll kill to go    

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?: Stories by N.K. Jemisin     

In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination.    

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler 

Octavia E. Butler’s classic “Bloodchild,” winner of both the Nebula and Hugo awards, anchors this collection of incomparable stories and essays. “Bloodchild” is set on a distant planet where human children spend their lives preparing to become hosts for the offspring of the alien Tlic. Sometimes the procedure is harmless, but often it is not. Also included is the Hugo Award–winning “Speech Sounds,” about a near future in which humans must adapt after an apocalyptic event robs them of their ability to speak. “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” another esteemed title in this collection, is a Nebula Award finalist. In these pages, Butler shows us life on Earth and amongst the stars, telling her tales with characteristic imagination and clarity.                                            

New Daughters of Africa: an international anthology of writing by women of African descent    

This anthology brings together fresh and vibrant voices that have emerged from across the globe in the past two decades, from Antigua to Zimbabwe and Angola to the United States. Key figures, including Margo Jefferson, Nawal El Saadawi, Edwidge Danticat, and Zadie Smith, join popular contemporaries such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Imbolo Mbue, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Taiye Selasi, and Chinelo Okparanta in celebrating the heritage that unites them. Each of the pieces in this remarkable collection demonstrates an uplifting sense of sisterhood, honors the strong links that endure from generation to generation, and addresses the common obstacles female writers of color face as they negotiate issues of race, gender, and class and address vital matters of independence, freedom, and oppression.                                                                       

Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime: Stories by J. California Cooper   

In Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime, Cooper’s characteristic themes of romance, heartbreak, struggle and faith resonate.  We meet Darlin, a self-proclaimed femme fatale who uses her wiles to try to find a husband; MLee, whose life seems to be coming to an end at the age of forty until she decides to set out and see if she can make a new life for herself; Kissy and Buddy, both trying and failing to find them until they finally meet each other; and Aberdeen, whose daughter Uniqua shows her how to educate herself and move up in the world.

 

If you are interested in more titles on this and other related topics, JMRL encourages you to use What Do I Read Next? to receive personal recommendations from JMRL librarians.                                                                                                                  

About JMRL Central Reference

Librarians in the reference department at the Central Library of JMRL.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s