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Associated Writing Program Award for Short Fiction

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Associated Writing Program Award for Short Fiction

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Girls in Trouble

Stories

Douglas Light

An abandoned girl, a savaged heart, a fatal hit and run—the thirteen stories in this powerful collection explore the scattered wreckage of life’s survivors. The characters in Girls in Trouble struggle to overcome loss and find their way through a world of desire and menace, redemption and error. Normalcy, a state always just beyond reach, glitters and beckons, impelling them forward. A relationship disintegrates while a pot of crabs boils. A man vows to end his destructive lifestyle before it ruins his family and future. A young woman fights to free herself from the weight of an unwanted inheritance. A girl finds herself lost in the storm of her parent’s break up. These stories crackle and sing with an urgency and longing that lingers long after the last page is read.

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Heavier Than Air

Stories

Nona Caspers

Throughout this collection, which was plucked from a pile of 300 manuscripts and awarded the Grace Paley Prize in short fiction, Caspers details the many ways reality can interfere with our dreams. Not surprisingly, dissatisfaction becomes a dominant theme. . . . Many of Caspers's stories are set in Minnesota's cattle and dairy country, and all of them traffic in the kind of Midwestern realism that doesn't rely on pyrotechnics to generate dramatic heat. Throughout, Caspers's people—it's difficult to consider some of them mere characters—question the decisions they've made or the ones they refuse to make. There's nothing flashy about Caspers's prose; like the beauty of the prairie itself, its attraction lies in details seen up close.New York Times Book Review

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Pins and Needles

Stories

Karen Ann Brown

In Pins and Needles, Karen Brown explores love and loss between mother and child, husband and wife, close friends, and virtual strangers. In many of these stories, Brown shows how love emerges as infidelity—incongruous and disruptive, threatening the stability of daily life. In “She Fell to Her Knees,” Nell inherits the neglected house in which her mother died years before, and begins an affair with the neighbor. The narrator of “Apparitions,” who has recently returned the blind grandson she was raising to the care of his mother, invites a confused young man into her home. In “The Ropewalk,” a bartender haunted by her abandonment of her own child aids a customer in a struggle for custody of her daughters. A pregnant teenager in “Unction” comes to accept the reality of her situation while working a summer job counting parts in a bookbinding machine shop. Annie, the young mother with a tragic past in “Pins and Needles,” leaves her infant daughter to go on an errand in a snowstorm, and picks up a boy she doesn't know. What remains a constant in these stories is the tangible presence of the natural world. Each story moves toward the moment in which its characters, navigating loss, learn acceptance. Like the single mother in “Destiny,” they see their lives happen—“all around, just then, forever.

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Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry

Stories

Christine Sneed

The ten stories in this striking debut collection examine the perils of love and what it means to live during an era when people will offer themselves, almost unthinkingly, to strangers. Risks and repercussions are never fully weighed. People leap and almost always land on rocky ground. May-December romances flourish in these stories, as do self-doubt and, in many cases, serious regret. Mysterious, dangerous benefactors, dead and living artists, movie stars and college professors, plagiarists, and distinguished foreign novelists are among the many different characters. No one is blameless, but villains are difficult to single out-everyone seemingly bears responsibility for his or her desires and for the outcome of difficult choices so often made hopefully and naively.

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Temporary Lives

Stories

Ramola D.

These ten memorable stories explore interior worlds and moments of intensity, either awakening or loss, in the lives of diverse characters—mostly young girls and married women, but also boys and long-laboring men. Whether Hindu, Muslim, or Christian, they are all burdened by the complex layerings of class and gender, and are variously able or unable to find escape from the conditions of oppression that surround them. Some manage to rise above their situations by experiencing the denials and hardships of their lives as temporary; others find no such relief. In the title story, Rose Ammal, who married young and bore numerous children, survives her husband’s betrayal and religious conversion by creating her own private redemptions and conversions. “The Next Corpse Collector” chronicles significant moments in the lives of two young brothers, Anwar and Amir, who seek to escape the destiny of corpse collector, the job their father is determined to bequeath to them. “What the Watchman Saw” offers a glimpse into the life of Venkatesh, a longtime watchman who is faced with the dilemma of whether to report the theft of stolen antiquities from the house of his new neighbor. “Esther” is a tale of the haunting, troubled spirit of Leeza’s grandmother, who lingers in Leeza’s childhood home and unexpectedly helps her during the summer her grandfather dies as she wakes to an adolescent infatuation with a neighbor boy. In “The Couple in the Park,” a young middle-class wife, Laura, in a constrictive arranged marriage, finds comfort in watching a couple in the park who remind her of her own grandparents as she tips over the edge into schizophrenia. “The Man on the Veranda” traces a significant day in the life of retired government-worker Parameswaran—the day his wife finally leaves him.

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