As the next step in a remarkable career turn, Jhumpa Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of several works of fiction in English, follows her Italian-language In Other Words by editing The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories (Penguin, $30). Discovering that many writers who inspired her were out of print or poorly translated, she assembled a collection of forty stories that represent the “robust tradition” of Italian writing from the twentieth century. Aiming “to present a portrait of Italy that reflects its reality,” she chose poets, journalists, musicians, critics, teachers, visual artists, scientists, politicians, and diplomats—then organized their works in reverse alphabetical order by their last name. Many of these names—Tomasi di Lampedusa, Italo Calvino, Primo Levi, and Natalia Ginzburg—will be familiar to English speakers, while others—Elio Vittorini, Ennio Flaiano, and Anna Banti—will be wonderful discoveries, as will be the sixteen stories here translated into English for the first time. Added bonuses include Lahiri’s illuminating introduction, brief profiles of each contributor, a dual chronology of Italy’s historical and literary events from 1840 to 2009, and suggestions for further reading.
Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s debut story collection, Sabrina and Corina (One World, $26), is a call to reconsider everything you know about the genre of the American Western. These stories dispel the myth of the West as the domain of cowboys and show us the women who have been indigenous to this landscape for centuries. Fajardo-Anstine’s writing is equal parts raw and graceful; while her characters navigate through dangers and uncertainties, she handles all of them with dignity and compassion. The eleven stories in this collection touch on the subjects of heritage, family, and poverty—in spite of hardships endured, the stories always return to a place of hopefulness. A Finalist for the 2019 National Book Award, Sabrina and Corina is a soon-to-be-classic and a necessary addition to any bookshelf.
Women are central in Kate Walbert's return to short stories after five novels. Although there are male characters on the periphery (mostly dead, divorced, or gone), the emotional stakes are all between the women. These are not stories of the sisterhood, however, but of lonely women hungering for each other's company and ultimately being unable to connect or having the promise of connection torn away. The women in this collection keep each other at a stiff distance while longing, with burgeoning self-refl ection, for something more, remembering the mothers, daughters, neighbors, and coworkers who touched their lives, remembering how She Was Like That (Scribner, $26). Anxiety is the central mood of these stories, but Walbert creates some deeply funny scenes, as in the many defi nitions of a mother in the Mother's Day school project that gives "A Mother is Someone who Tells Jokes" its title.