300 short stories: story 256

story: “Our Mothers Before Them”

author: Jenny Zhang, who I stumbled upon at Shakespeare & Company last summer in Paris

year: 2017

where: Abu Dhabi

note: From the NYer, “Sour Heart is a feminist bildungsroman—the narrators act upon their world just as much as the world acts upon them—and it depicts, from start to finish, a collective coming of age.”

&: This is definitely a long short story, a very good one.

a line: “My mother got up and drew the microphone to her lips and spoke into it, breathy and slow. ‘YES. It. Was. A. Good. Thing. In. The. End.”

theme(s): Mothers and daughters; immigration; siblings; manic-depression

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300 short stories: story 253

story: “Wild Milk”

author: Sabrina Orah Mark

year: 2014

where: Abu Dhabi, last day of Eid holiday

note: From Tin House

a line: “In the hallway, I pass a mother covered in daughters. I count approximately five. I hold up my bundled son, like a form of identification. Like he will provide me safe passage across the border. “No daughters?” she asks. “No,” I say. “No daughters.” “How come?” she asks. She seems to be blaming me, unfairly.”

theme(s): Motherhood, surrealism, letting go

300 short stories: story 251

story: “Angel in the Architecture”

author: Zoe Young

year: 2018

where: Abu Dhabi, last day of Eid holiday

note: From McSweeney’s 53 (the celebration issue, complete with balloons!); apparently American composer Frank Ticheli wrote a score by the same name (with a plural).

a line: “’It was built by Octavin and Marcus Agrippa’–meaningless–“after the battle of Actium”–meaningless–“when they defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra.’”

theme(s): Tourism; faith; good and evil

300 short stories: story 247

story: “Fire Horse”

author: Karen Shepard

year: 2017

where: Home, in bed

note: I love this story, though I hesitate to call it one story. It feels like two stories about the same characters. Margaret Atwood has two stories like that in Bluebeard’s Egg, but she chose to split them into two titles and group them beside each other.

a line: “Weeks before we left New York, my grandmother had told me over the phone from her apartment in Paris that it was only a matter of time before my mother would lose interest in me, now that I was grown up.”

theme(s): Families, siblings, mothers and daughters, heritage, love

300 short stories: story 245 & 246

story: “Popular Girls” & “Their Mothers”

author: Karen Shepard

year: 2017

where: Casa dolce casa

note: I am grouping these two stories together, because they are both written in the 1st person plural (a rarity) and they both come from Shepard’s collection Kiss Me Someone, though I don’t think these “mothers” are the mothers of the “Popular Girls”; I also think “Popular Girls” is a much stronger and more interesting narrative. The POV also works better in “Popular Girls”; this story gives me that “Gossip Girl” thrill, but when I was younger, that kind of thrill was blended with a slight-envy, now after I have been around great wealth for so long, a lot of those feelings have changed.

P.S. Shepard is going to be my teacher at Tin House this year.

a line: “She says with a sweep of her arm that when we grow up, she’ll dress us all. Her father lives in a castle. Her grandmother was the queen of Holland or something like that.”

theme(s): Wealth, prestige, friendship, loyalty, men and women, hive mind