Less is more. Quality over quantity. Short stories gather their strength from this truth.
Snappy, quick, forceful, and significant. Like short stories, Carribeans work to say the most with the least; cutting the fat off of words in order to get to the meat of the message, revealing the heart even when a story is just beginning. Through the form of short stories, Caribbeans writers pay homage to local dialects and forms of storytelling.
Despite the power of the short story, the structure has been dwindled and is seldom held to a high caliber. Often the structure of short stories is compared to the expansiveness of larger pieces of work like novels. The West has found an interesting way to uplift the novel and shorthand other mediums of storytelling. In many ways, novels have become the only route towards a potentially explosive career, while the short story at most has been viewed as an honorable stepping stone. Yet, short stories are abundant and resourceful. They often become ingrained in the memory of readers because of the depthness they take on within a calculated amount of time and space.
Below are nine stories by writers of Caribbean descent to read, for free, online.
1. "You’re the Only Friend I Need" by Alejandro Heredia
If you loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Memorable Lines: “He feels as if he might laugh at the sight, a man turning into a woman right before his eyes. The part of him that is dictated by logic, that which has always been good at following the rules, that part of young Noel wants to laugh at the absurd. Then there is the other. Or the others. The multitudes within him that fight to push their way to the front of conscious thought, like a field of fireflies flickering in synchrony, as if to point to this moment in time. As if to say, “you have arrived.”
2. "Holyoke Mass., an Ethnography" by Ivelisse Rodriguez
If you enjoyed the unapologetic characters in Ernesto Quiñonez’s Bodega Dreams Memorable Lines: “It’s funny how we think we’ll be better than our mothers. How even though they’re all we’ve seen, we think we can have things they’ve never had. We are taught to dream only of what we can reach out and grab with our two fists, and whatever we can’t doesn’t exist and is certainly not worth thinking about. Yet we resist. We believe in love.”
3. "Played or How I Failed a Becoming a Chapiadora" by Cleivys Natera
If you are interested in coming-of-age stories with complicated and complex crushes.
Memorable Lines: “Let me say it. Because I know. If the girl hadn’t been there, he would have invited me in. He would have. If she hadn’t ruined everything, I would have gone inside, and we would have kissed. If she hadn’t been there and my stomach didn’t make me rush away before he had a chance to take a real look at me, he would have invited me to sit and I would have been the one with a flute in my hand. He wouldn’t have minded that he had lived twice my life. If she hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have thought I was stupid.”
4. "Of Ghosts and Shadows" by Roxanne Gay
If you were enthralled by the themes of love and desire found in Patsy by Nicole Dennis- Benn
Memorable Lines: “We lie down, together. She covers her hand with mine. I fall asleep before I can tell her I love her, listening to the sound of her beating heart and rushing blood. I cannot tell her that she should leave before dawn arrives. I am too tired and too satisfied to be afraid. In the morning, my mother will find us like this, limbs entangled, bodies as one, breathing each other’s breath.”
5. “The Academy of Acceptable Loss” by Julian Randall
If you’ve ever been deliriously ignited by Rita Indiana’s flow in Papi.
Memorable Lines: “I’m fifteen after all, what else could I be but scaffold on a building perpetually on the eve of becoming? A loose tooth atop a better bone, blood is at the root of all advancement. All the food tastes like copper. Wisdom teeth itch into being at the back of my soft mouth, the path to normalcy is a well-practiced wound. Something stirs beneath flesh, gags at my touch and this is how I grow older, fingering what will rot in isolation.
6. "The Ghost of Jia Yi" by Alexia Arthurs
If you are interested in the mysteries similar to the ones found in Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Memorable Lines: “During sex, Tiffany tries not to make extended eye contact because something deep and disastrous is forming for him for these moments when his hands are on her breasts and then on her ass and then on her breasts again, and she’s wondering if he smiles like this when he’s with Taylor, if his hands are as busy for a white girl with small breasts and an ass that barely separates from her back.”
If you felt some type of way about Junot Diaz’s "How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White girl, or Halfie)"
Memorable Lines: “Stay shut. Let him re-button his shirt, let him comb his hair, your want dribbling like tears inside you. When his girlfriend calls then buzzes, let him go with way too little good-byes. He’ll want them. During the next hour the phone will ring. You’ll be tempted to answer. Don’t. Watch the shows you don’t want to watch, the ones your family loves. Don’t go downstairs. Fall asleep. It’ll help. But keep the Bible in its place even if your pops crucifies you.”
8. "A Story in Which I Look Good" by Earl Lovelace
If you enjoy the Caribbean experience described through Derek Walcott’s poetry
Memorable Lines: “This defensiveness is not a posture he is happy with, and as the men in beige jackets press down on him, I get a glimpse of another side to him that is a flicker or two away, something stubborn and crazy and ugly. Something that doesn’t want to listen and doesn’t want to hear. If he feels pushed, he will turn into a bull, a storm. If the world is not careful, he will lower his horns. I am not sure the men in the beige jackets understand this.”
9. "Without a Big One" by JP Infante
If you enjoyed the straightforward tone of Piri Thomas’ Down These Mean Streets
Memorable Lines: “Your jeans stick to your legs. You almost shower, but change jeans instead. The living room is dim with the kitchen light. Nilda’s gone. Mary snores on the sofa like always. She probably forgot parent-teacher conference is tomorrow. Scratch your tear ducts. The crust goes in your nails. The floor creaks. Bite your nails. Run away because she went crazy the last time you wet the bed. Put your coat on. Look at Mary dreaming before you leave. Grab her by the wrist and touch your face with her hand. Her watch says 11:30 PM.
Meet the Family
Lorraine Avila is the author of Malcriada and Other Stories. She is a Black Bronxite with Caribbean roots in the Dominican Republic. Her mission is to break free from generational trauma by continuing to rupture the traditions of silence.
Avila has a BA from Fordham University in English and Middle East studies with a minor in Creative Writing and an MA in Teaching from New York University. She is an anti-racist educator; her expertise lies in middle school literacy.
Lorraine currently resides in the Bronx, New York.
Find her here.