A Case for Short Stories

Though my taste in books is often YA East-Asian Romance novels, middle grade magic and whimsy, or poetry, I do find myself picking up and finding goodness in a short story collection from time to time. These little nuggets make me think of boxes of sweets, called mithai, from India that have a different flavor in every gold-tinned dish. You can find a little bit of everything in a collection of short stories. That makes me so happy - a little feast, just for me - and hopefully, if I convince you to pick one, for you as well!

Why should you be joyous about these short stories? Here are some reasons to read these collections:

  1. A short story collection, oftentimes, is a collection of writings by a group of people. Reading short stories exposes you to a variety of author styles and voices, and there’s a high chance that you might find an author you really love whose longer works you’ll want to read. Like I said, it's like a case of sweets!
  2. Along with this, short stories are usually topic-oriented. If you’re in love with a specific topic, say meet-cutes, or you are donning your Christmas socks already, eagerly waiting for Netflix to drop their new holiday movies, you can find books relating to these loves (Meet Cute and My True Love Gave to Me, both available in audiobook form, are two recommendations I give to you with joy). Collections can give you a chance to really dig deep into an idea that you’re intrigued by or in love with (Hungry Hearts, people? Food AND love stories? My heart!)
  3. Short story collections are also a space where marginalized voices get a say in sharing the stories they want to share, not the stories others want to share about their experiences. If it is not an #ownvoices author, though it often is, it still centers marginalized voices smack-dab in the front of the story, making sure you can hear them. This is Our Rainbow catalogs joyful moments in the queer community, while Unbroken stars disabled teens in thirteen stories. Halal if You Hear Me, edited by poets Safia Elhillo and Fatimah Asgar, is a collection of poems relating to the Muslim experience. Though technically not in short story form, poems still tell stories too, and I think their work fits the message I'm trying to get across. Plus, Safia Elhillo's work is gorgeous. Communities who are not often spoken about, or whose experiences aren’t often spoken about with joy, can find a home in short story collections. 
  4. This is for our writer friends: Short stories are a medium where we have a space to evaluate effective writing. It takes immense skill to craft a story that movies you in just a few pages, and because of that, you can learn a lot from the author's technique. Think about it; short stories have the ability to make us cry, make us wheeze-laugh until people surrounding us look at us funny, or offer a new perspective on someone’s life. How do they do that? Is it their word choice, or the way they pace their story? How do they create tension that’s just right for the length? What about their writing made you feel something?
  5. And last but not least, short stories are just that – short! For those who love the feeling of accomplishment you get from finishing a story, short stories afford that feeling in spades. You could cozy up in bed and fall asleep being warmed by a whole story about the joy of Eid celebrations with Once Upon an Eid, or fill your heart and stomach while eating a bowl of ramen and reading a tale from Hungry Hearts. The brevity of short stories offer opportunities of wonder in dull spaces of your life, like the daily commute to your work or waiting in line at a doctor’s office. So many spaces, these little crevices of time in your life, could be dedicated to reading a story. 

Have I convinced you yet, even slightly? Good (and if you said no, read Once Upon an Eid and then reconsider).

In order to help you on your quest to find a collection of stories that make you leave the library feeling like you’ve acquired a pot of gold, I have compiled a list of recommendations for you. I read from every section of the library: kids, YA, and adult, so I've included a variety from each section. It's way more fun to read from all sections, and you should have fun too!

Knowing this, however, it's important to know the brand of books I'll share with you.

Here’s my brand: wholesome, uplifting, warms your heart up in a glowy pink color/ makes you cry from overwhelm of love, and focused on diverse characters in terms of race + queerness. You will probably not find books about bloody murder, high fantasy, or intense drama in my lists of observations. If any of the aforementioned key words (specifically: glowy pink hearts) rings with you, feel free to look at the list below. 

Once Upon An Eid

Meet Cute

My True Love Gave to Me

Unbroken

Out Now

This Is Our Rainbow

Hungry Hearts

It's A Whole Spiel

Foreshadow

Halal If You Hear Me

-Anita Patel is a Youth Services Assistant who is often seeking to find the magic in life.

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