Last month, a New Yorker short story, 'Cat Person' by Kristen Roupenian, went viral. [. . .] To me, the story is about how we all understand sexual consent and how such decisions/choices are based on intricately-nuanced and deeply-rooted cultural conditioning. [. . .] So, for this month's selections, I went on the hunt for stories about consent. They are not necessarily the definitive "best" but they are very good, free to read online, and by these writers: Joyce Carol Oates, Susan Minot, Tracey Slaughter, Lori Sambol Brody, and Lynn Steger Strong. I must apologize this is not as diverse an anthology as I would like, particularly as people of minority groups — based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, etc. — have very different experiences with the matter of consent. And while those diverse stories are out there too, sadly, they are not published, highlighted, applauded, discussed, or awarded enough. Yet. Also, though I tried to stay away from actual sexual abuse/violence and focus on "consent" as the main theme, as you can see from the stories, it is a slippery slope.
[As mentioned earlier, for November and December, I am revisiting the top ten stories featured here throughout the year.] One of the best recent essays I have read about the short story form is by Brandon Taylor. In 'Against the Attention Economy: Short Stories Are Not Quick Literary Fixes', he makes some excellent points. Here are just a few of them . . . All of the short stories I share each month here are ones that, if we take the time to read them with attention and patience, will beat inside of us like second hearts. For December, we have stories (all free to read online, just click the titles) from these amazing writers: Lesley Nneka Arimah; John Cheever; Amy Tan; Karen Shepard; and Michael Cunningham. Enjoy. Oh, and in case you missed them, I also had two short stories published in Jet Fuel Review and Kweli Journal. The latter has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
For November and December, let's revisit the best of the last ten months of short stories from this ongoing series. Why bother with this? For one, I find many short stories, when reread, give us new flavors, textures, nuances, etc., that we might have missed during the first read. For another, I do not want these amazing stories to simply get buried in the archives. So here are the five best-of-the-best from January-May 2017: stories by Karen Russell, Mohammed Naseehu Ali, Leila Aboulela, Robert Olen Butler, Helen Oyeyemi. These were very hard to pick, as you can imagine.