Editor’s picks: Short stories

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Mexico: Stories by Josh Barkan, Hogarth (Penguin Random House), January 2017, US $25.00, Pp 256, ISBN 978-1101906293

Foreign Soil: And Other Stories by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Atria / 37 INK, US $22.00, Pp 272, January 2017, ISBN 978-1501136368

Mexico is a collection of twelve stories about ordinary people like parents, teachers and artists who are struggling to build their lives in a world where cartel violence and chaos reign. Barkan introduced a cast of characters who found themselves face to face with criminality and brutality of the Mexican cartels. The cast of characters included a former beauty queen who bears the scars of her tragic past and helped a cancer patient discover her will to live. The students of a teacher risk death for their star-crossed love and inspired him to make amends with his estranged family. A painter is kidnapped off the street. A chef has to cook for a gangster under pain of death. A plastic surgeon is forced to alter a fugitive drug lord’s appearance. Cartel crime and ordinary life overlap. Sometimes it is difficult to see the difference between ordinary life and crime. Mexico is a collection of what you will enjoy to read if you are interested in light reading about ordinary people. Josh Barkan created characters that are full of life. Barkan is a new and essential voice in American fiction.

JOSH BARKAN is the winner of the Lightship International Short Story Prize and has been a finalist for the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, the Paterson Fiction Prize, and the Juniper Prize for Fiction. He received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He did his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught writing at Harvard, Boston University, and New York University.

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Foreign Soil is an award-winning anthology of stories about the disenfranchised, the lost, and the mistreated. You come across a desperate asylum seeker pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention center. A seven-year-old Sudanese boy finds solace in a patchwork bike while a black militant in rage is on the warpath through the rebel squads of 1960s Brixton. A Mississippi housewife makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small town ignorance, and in yet another story a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny and in another, a Sydney schoolgirl loses her way. Foreign Soil is international fiction that crosses the world – Africa, Europe, West Indies, and Australia. The stories of Maxine Beneba Clarke will touch your heart and change the way to look at the world. These stories will immediately grip your full attention and you will not be able to put it down before you finish the book.

Maxine Beneba Clarke is a novelist, poet, and editor living in Melbourne, Australia. She has received the Hazel Rowley Fellowship for Biography. She has also won the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the Debut Fiction Indie Award and the Literary Fiction Book of the Year in the Australian Book Industry Awards. Foreign Soil is Maxine’s first book.