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short stories, women short stories, women short stories, women short stories, women short stories,
When the majority of the literary canon, the books arbitrarily deemed must-reads, is populated by white, male authors, it’s necessary to seek out short stories written by women. Here are 10 short stories from a variety of genres to add to your reading list.
1. “Brownies” by Z.Z. Packer
“Brownies” excels at the difficult task of telling a story from a child’s eyes. Packer does not patronize her younger characters, but instead utilizes dialogue to infuse her large cast with strikingly individual personalities.
2. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin
Written by renowned feminist sci-fi author Ursula LeGuin, this is one of her most stunning and accessible short stories. It explores the utopian city of Omelas, whose prosperity relies on a sinister secret. LeGuin’s unorthodox writing style will change your perception of what a short story can be.
3. “The Lottery” by Shirely Jackson
The lottery seems mundane at first. It takes place in a small town in the late 1940s with children, women, and men gathering for the annual lottery. The twist at the end is a chilling reminder of the banality of evil. Readers will see how this served as inspiration for author Suzanne Collins.
4. “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker
Written by the author of The Color Purple, this work focuses on the relationship between working-class a mother and her two daughters. The mother is big-boned and is used to rough work on the farm, though she wishes she could be the thin, sophisticated woman her older daughter wants her to be. The younger daughter is shy and slow, with burn scars wrapped around her arms that still stunt her confidence. The three personalities conflict when the elder daughter visits home.
5. “Interpreter of Maladies” By Jhumpa Lahiri
This melancholy work follows an Indian American family who are vacationing in India to visit their parents. The heart of the piece lies in the interactions between the mother, Mrs. Das and their cab driver/tour guide, Mr. Kapasi, which highlights their cultural differences and reveals their own secrets.
6. “Janus” by Ann Beattie
This unique short story revolves around one woman’s fixation on a simple object: a bowl. What begins as a simple good-luck charm transforms into an obsession. She wakes up in the middle of the night to look at it, even beginning to think of it as a person, although she knows how crazy it sounds. It’s only until the end of the story that we understand why the bowl is so meaningful.
7. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Perkins Gilman
Gilman was writing during a time in which intellectual stimulation was thought to damage women’s health, such as causing headaches, mental breakdowns or infertility. “The Yellow Wallpaper”, one of her most well-known short stories, takes place in this context. It deals with a woman who has been put on bedrest to cure her “temporary nervous depression”. With no stimulation but the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom, she descends into madness.
Gilman herself was put on this type of bed-rest, forbidden from reading or writing with only two hours of mental stimulation a day. Her short story stood as a protest against this treatment assigned to women.
8. “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid
This poetic two-page short story comments on the oppressive nature of women’s socialization. Although there are no named characters, readers get the sense that a mother is lecturing her daughter on how to be a woman. She repeatedly tells her daughter to act properly not like “the slut you are bent on becoming”. The innocent daughter occasionally asks questions, but is inevitably silenced each time.
9. “Flowers” by Alice Walker
Another quick short story, also by Alice Walker, is “Flowers”. It starts out as an idyllic pastoral story about a young girl enjoying the summer flowers near her home. Readers will be haunted by its abrupt, dark end.
10. “Who’s Irish?” by Gish Jen
The last of these short stories focuses on the complexities of immigrant families. It’s from the perspective of a Chinese grandmother who is a bit skeptical of her white son-in-law, ( she says that his speech is as bland as American food) and unsure of her unruly granddaughter. Read this if you want a comedic, but thoughtful short story.