We Are the Stories We Tell:
The Best Short Stories by North American Women Since 1945

edited by Wendy Martin


Pantheon Books NY, 1990. ISBN 0679728813.
Reviewed by Carolyn Blankenship
Posted on 02/21/2003

Fiction: Historical; Anthologies/Collections

Welcome to a smorgasbord of contemporary women's fiction; a complilation of 24 short stories as diverse as their authors. The reader gets to sample the works of writers like Alice Walker, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ursula LeGuin writing about subjects as varied as abortion and dance parties. The common thread in this anthology is that each piece speaks so directly and deeply to our lives as American women.

In her introduction, Wendy Martin stresses that she has attempted to give voice to the "female experience in all its complexity" by including women of African, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Jewish descent, as well as those of European ancestry. She hopes the stories speak "to what has been silenced, repressed, and excluded in women's lives," and will remind us of the importance of remembering our personal and collective pasts.

From "Royal Beatings" by Alice Munro: "Looking out from her kitchen window at the cold lake, Rose was longing to tell somebody. It was Flo who would enjoy hearing. She thought of her saying 'Imagine!' in a way that meant she was having her worst suspicions gorgeously confirmed. But Flo was in the same place Hat Nettleton had died in, and there wasn't any way Rose could reach her."

Even though our experiences are so disparate, each story rings true. Some stories are disturbing, some are delightful; some bring us to tears, some make us laugh out loud—much like life itself.

These are stories that long to be told, and Martin has skillfully brought them together and given them an audience. In "No Place for You, My Love," Eudora Welty says, "A thing is incredible, if ever, only after it is told—returned to the world it came out of." Here are our stories, returned to us to delight in and ponder.

Wendy Martin is chair of the Department of English at the Claremont Graduate School and teaches American literature and American studies at Queens College, CUNY. She is the author of numerous articles and reviews on American women writers and early American literature and culture, and was a founder of "Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal", for which she is the editor. Her most recent book is An American Triptych: The Lives and Work of Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich.

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