A Short Collection of Reviews

I love short stories. Below are the short Story Collections I read this year with a short review.

What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Leslie Nneka Arimah. I’ve already read this collection twice. There is a particular magical entrancement that occurs when reading these stories. I think it’s because the stories feel like they are coming from a real place. Whether that is from a memory, a place in the writer’s mind or heart these stories get at you with detail, action, emotion, and so on. The wording in the beginning of the first story confused me at first, but I think the intention was to make sure the reader  pays attention. It worked. I slowed down and the words started to click. This is one of the best collection of short stories I’ve read to date. Favorite story from the collection: It’s a tie between Who Will Greet You When You Get Home (crazy-good) and What is a Volcano. Both stories are, I think, about desire and how that can turn us inside out. What is a Volcano is in the style of a fable which I absolutely love. Would recommend all day, everyday. 5 stars.

Unclean Jobs for Woman and Girls by Alissa Nutting. This book is so intricately different from anything I’ve ever read before. Some people might say this book is weird, but it’s weird in all the best ways. The stories are just flavorful, uninhibited, and often hilarious. Favorite story from the collection: Delivery Woman. In this story a naive woman decides to rekindle her relationship with her criminal mother who has been frozen for her crimes. Despite trying to make the best of the situation the woman’s naivety and foolishness get the best of her. A close second would be Ant Colony where a woman living with ants inside of her obtains the insects special abilities. Would highly recommend. 4 stars.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado. I had a lot of expectations for this book. Usually the buzz around a book catches my attention, but doesn’t necessarily push me to run out and get the book immediately. This time, though, I was all in, ready to get lost in the pages of this eight story collection. The writing is quite good, thoughtful, purposeful, and drizzled with beautiful language. I also appreciate the experimental aspects of stories like Especially Heinous, a take on Law & Order: SVU that combines a type of fan fiction-esque recap of episodes. This story in particular is dark and gritty but also highlights the burden on victims and the people trying to help them. For me, though, the story itself dragged. The Husband Stitch, Inventory, The Resident, and Eight Bites picked up the slack for me.  Favorite story from the collection: Eight Bites. The story examines the relationship  a woman has with her body, how she sees herself, and why she feels the need to have a procedure that all of her sisters have had. It’s chilling to see an example of what happens to a body discarded. Would recommend for discussion purposes. 3.5 stars

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. An emotional read from start to finish. I found myself frustrated and exhausted for the women in these stories and for myself because the scenarios are not far fetched for Women. Gay’s writing is beautiful and savory. I found the more unusual stories the best. Requiem for a Glass Heart, Water, All Its Weight, and I Am a Knife, to me have speculative fiction elements to them.  Favorite story from the collection: North Country. This story seems to have one of the happier of endings of all the stories and in this collection that holds weight. It provides a reprieve from the more violent and exhausting stories. Would recommend (with a warning to have tissues and a strong disposition at the ready). 3.5 stars

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I kept seeing Angela Carter’s name in different articles about the retelling of stories. The Bloody Chamber was the book that often accompanied her name so I thought I would check it out. Every story in this book is a retelling of stories, often from a female point of view. I’ll be honest for me it was hard to discern which stories were being retold, with the exception of Puss in Boots and a Beauty and the Beast type story. These stories are vivid and chilling. The title story The Bloody Chamber, a retelling of the Blackbeard Legend gave me nightmares after reading it. The Snow Child was also particularly brutal, I thought. It was shorter than most of the other stories and really came full force with its imagery. I remember muttering, Damn! after finishing it. Favorite story from the collection: Puss in Boots. This is an adult story all about lust. Puss is the most hilarious conniving character I’ve read in a long time and he cared not about how he got what he wanted to help his master and himself. Overall a good read. Would recommend. 3.5 stars.

Blue Talk & Love by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan. The stories are set in various places in New York and gives the collection a wonderful connecting point. Black women and girls are given a voice that shows them for who they are and who they want to be. I couldn’t predict the way any of the stories would end. I loved that. The writing is fresh and original. I felt engaged with all the stories.   Favorite story from the collection: A Strange People. In this story conjoined female twins born into slavery make their fame as performers. Would highly recommend. 4 stars.

What I’m Thankful For

It’s Thanksgiving week and I have so much to be thankful for. I try to practice appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness everyday, but November really brings it out in folks and heightens my awareness too.

I’m thankful for you, dear readers. You have invested time and energy into me, my work, my newsletters, and my stories. This means the world to me. Thank you!


I’m thankful for friends and family who give warm hugs, make me laugh, and remind me of the important things in life. You keep me strong and centered. You make sure I know how much I am loved and that I feel that love everyday.

I’m thankful for ghosts (…not the spooky kind) who show me where I have made mistakes and how I do not have to repeat those mistakes.

Lastly, I’m thankful for self. I have somehow managed, with all my clumsiness, anxiety, and depression, to keep on keepin’ on.

What are you thankful for? Feel free to share in the comments. Happy Thanksgiving.

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower The Opera

This weekend I went to see Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower The Opera created, written, and composed by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon .

The opera was auditory magic. Absolutely incredible.


It’s based on the 1993 Butler novel Parable of the Sower set in the 2020s where the society is collapsing because of a number of issues like climate change, greed, and inequality. At the center of the story is Lauren Oya Olamina who, with her ability to feel what others feel and sense, grows up in a “gated community”, but finds herself outgrowing the beliefs she’s been taught. When her community is destroyed she takes her new beliefs and sets out to rebuild.


The Opera follows the novel closely and if you’ve not read it in a while or have never read it, you may find yourself a little lost during the performance. But the two acts capture the ideas of community and humanity with such intensity and emotion that anyone can enjoy the messages without knowing the text.


The music is lively and moving. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen or heard a story told so beautifully. Transitioning from near gospel to folk-blues to rock the music challenges the audience to listen deeply and even participate. I was singing and tapping my feet right along despite not knowing the words. I can’t wait for the music to be available. I highly recommend going to see this show if you can.



When I Was A Tree

Happy Tuesday! Here’s a poem I wrote back in 2012 about being a tree. The changing leaves make me so happy and introspective. I took these pictures of my neighborhood while walking my pup and couldn’t resist gazing up at the leaves as they transformed.

When I was a tree
I talked with the sky
and the stars and the clouds
and other trees.
I felt the breeze roll over
my branches much like
I feel it on my shoulders
now but different still.
When I was a tree
the spongy bouncing of a squirrel
tripping from limb to limb
would make me laugh and squirm-
it tickled so. But I never dropped a
single one.
And growing such delicious
fruit to feed all the neighbors
ahh, yes. The feasts were delightful.

When I was a tree it seemed
I could do so much more.

When I was a tree
I was a better being.
I was better.



Krystal Smith ©2012-2017