When we think of collections of Black writing, we tend to imagine collections or poems, speeches, and essays by internationally recognized Black writers and speakers like Baldwin, Morrison, W.E.B Dubois, and others. But today, essays and short-story collections are more accessible and publishers are willing to publish new and current Black writers’ collection works. LaToya Watkins and Jamel Brinkley have proven this with their new short-story collections “Holler, Child” and “Witness: Stories.” Both collections are built with a major theme, where a number of short stories support the overall story arc of the books.
The stories in “Holler, Child” denote an intimate and emotional reckoning with the characters, who are each introduced as individual protagonists in each piece. The 10 stories in “Witness”’ are set in the changing landscapes of contemporary New York City. With an inviting and eerie plethora of characters, which range from ghosts to children and everyone in between, the book challenges each protagonist to “live through the responsibility of perceiving and the moral challenge of speaking up or taking action,” writes Brinkley’s publishers.
It is always important to explore the collections of new writers as well as writers of the past. The art of the short story, essay, and creative nonfiction will expand and grow in the realm of Black literature in the near future, similarly to Black speculative, intergenerational writing.
Supporting unique lesser-published writing formats will open the door for future short-story writers to find their voices and footing in the competitive publishing world.
“Holler, Child” and “Witness: Stories” are powerful stories infused with passion, vision, and understanding of human nature in a manner that is acute, wise, and entertaining to read. Make sure you add these books to your collection this year.