Three of the season’s most anticipated collections are brief, powerful and to the point.
R.L. Maizes chronicles the comedy and absurdity of the human condition in her wry, whimsical debut, We Love Anderson Cooper. In the beautifully executed title story, Markus, a seventh-grader grappling with his homosexuality, causes a stir by coming out at his bar mitzvah. (“Why didn’t you talk to us first? We would have understood,” his mother says. “We love Anderson Cooper.”) Markus is one of several characters whose emotions bring unexpected consequences or shifts in perspective, such as in “Couch,” in which therapist Penelope’s new office sofa has the power to impart optimism. Crafted without excess or stylistic extremity, Maizes’ stories have a refreshing forthrightness.
Edwidge Danticat’s Everything Inside, her first volume of short stories since the acclaimed Krik? Krack! (1995), mines the emotional and psychological landscapes of Haitian immigrants through rich narratives that explore the nature of family, identity and home. Many of Danticat’s protagonists are women living with loss or trying to make reality tally up with their expectations. In “Sunrise, Sunset,” a Haitian woman living in Miami is inured to the vagaries of life—“the whims of everything from tyrants to hurricanes and earthquakes.” As she slowly succumbs to dementia, she tries to help her daughter adjust to motherhood. In “The Gift,” a woman meets up with a former lover who lost his family in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. “The Port-au-Prince Marriage Special” tells the story of a young nanny with AIDS and the family that employs her. Powerful and poignant, heartbreaking and hopeful, these are narratives about people struggling to connect—across continents, across generations.
Rion Amilcar Scott’s electrifying The World Doesn’t Require You takes place in the fictional town of Cross River, Maryland, which provided the backdrop for his debut, Insurrections (2016). Settled by the inciters of a slave rebellion, it’s a town shaped by the forces of history and religion. In “David Sherman, the Last Son of God,” God is a Cross River native with 13 children and whose youngest, David, tries to make a place for himself in the community by heading up a gospel band. In “The Electric Joy of Service,” robot slaves are manufactured to serve wealthy masters. Scott mixes tones and moods, moving from solemn and portentous to comic and ironic with unfailing assurance. My advice: Dispense with expectations, surrender to Scott’s singular genius, and enjoy the journey.