By Heidi Simmons

Short stories abound this week with the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival.  With 338 films between one and 20 minutes in length, there is a plethora of stories and storytellers. 

As many of you know, I love a good short story — in film and especially in books.

Keeping with the international and culturally diverse themes of the festival, these short story collections come from writers here and abroad shedding light on the differences and similarities of human thought, culture and life.


Heads of Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Atria, 224 pages).

Black lives matter.  The author explores black identity, class and race.  Using humor and satire, the compelling stories capture the vulnerability, strength and resilience of living in a black body through an age of violence, uncertainty and discrimination.

The World Goes On by Lászlo Krasznahorkai (New Directions, 288 pages).

The Hungarian author says in his own words at the start of the book:  “Each text is about drawing our attention away from this world, speeding our body toward annihilation, and immersing ourselves in a current of thought or a narrative…”  There are 11 captivating stories in this collection.

Awayland by Ramona Ausubel (Riverhead, 240 pages).

Some of the stories have been previously published in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Beautifully structured, these stories span the globe and beyond, from small-town America, sunny Caribbean islands, the Arctic Ocean and the gates of Heaven. Using mythology and magical realism, the author remains grounded in universal themes and experiences.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, 224 pages).

The Pulitzer Prize winning author sets his stories in both America and Vietnam. 

As a refugee himself, Nguyen reveals the experiences of people living lives between two countries and cultures.

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin, 304 pages).

This award-winning author leaves her Young Adult readers to explore fantasy fiction in a fully adult world.  Love, death, jealousy, sexuality mingle in different universal realities.

Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree by Niq Mhlongo (Kwela, 187 pages).

The author is South African where the apricot tree is known to have multiple souls.  What if the tree could talk?  The author delves into tales of an exotic culture, exploring intriguing characters and thought-provoking ideas.

The Love of a Bad Man by Laura Elizabeth Woollett (Scribe, 240 pages).

Twelve fictional stories bend around historical characters, places and events.  This Australian author reveals the lengths to which women will go for the men they love.  Twisted and dark, there are no up-beat fairytale endings for these women and their bad choices in men.

Insurrections by Rion Amilcar Scott (University Press of Kentucky, 208 pages).

This award-winning book contains thirteen stories, which drop into the fictional world of Cross River, Maryland, and its residents, a largely black settlement founded in 1807 after the only successful slave revolt in the United States.

Raw, edgy, and unrelenting, the stories are infused with forgiveness, redemption, and humor.  These characters fight for survival and suffer the quiet tragedies of everyday life.

Short story collections are a great way to get familiar with an author and are perfect for vacation reading.  Enjoy the myriad of stories at the Palm Springs International Short Film Fest along with a good short-story book poolside.

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