Twenty prizewinning stories
Review,  Fiction

The Best Short Stories 2021 by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Twenty prizewinning stories

The Best Short Stories 2021 is well written, diverse, and poignant collection of Twenty prizewinning stories with various themes and political writing.

Twenty prizewinning stories

The Best Short Stories 2021: The O. Henry Prize Winners by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Featured in this collection: Daphne Palasi Andreades – David Means – Sindya Bhanoo – Crystal Wilkinson – Alice Jolly – David Rabe – Karina Sainz Borgo – Jamel Brinkley – Tessa Hadley – Adachioma Ezeano – Anthony Doerr – Tiphanie Yanique – Joan Silber – Jowhor Ile – Emma Cline – Asali Solomon – Ben Hinshaw – Caroline Albertine Minor – Jianan Qian – Sally Rooney

Publication Date : September 14th 2021

Publisher : Anchor Books

Genre : Anthology / Literary Fiction

Pages : 400

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Disclaimer – Many thanks to PRH International for free e-copy via NetGalley.
This post contains affiliate links.


Twenty prizewinning stories selected from the thousands published in magazines over the previous year–continuing the O. Henry Prize’s century-long tradition of literary excellence.

Now entering its second century, the prestigious annual story anthology has a new title, a new look, and a new guest editor. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has brought her own refreshing perspective to the prize, selecting stories by an engaging mix of celebrated names and young emerging voices. The winning stories are accompanied by an introduction by Adichie, observations from the winning writers on what inspired them, and an extensive resource list of magazines that publish short fiction.

Featured in this collection: Daphne Palasi Andreades – David Means- Sindya Bhanoo- Crystal Wilkinson- Alice Jolly- David Rabe- Karina Sainz Borgo (translator, Elizabeth Bryer) – Jamel Brinkley- Tessa Hadley – Adachioma Ezeano- Anthony Doerr- Tiphanie Yanique – Joan Silber – Jowhor Ile – Emma Cline – Asali Solomon – Ben Hinshaw – Caroline Albertine Minor (translator, Caroline Waight) – Jianan Qian – Sally Rooney


The Best Short Stories 2021 is a collection of 20 well-written literary fiction stories with various themes. Most of them are diverse stories has tragic, sad, depressing, and heartbreaking tone, and political writing. You need to be in a particular mood for this. I don’t read that many literary fiction and never have read any award winning stories or those published in New Yorker and such magazines so I didn’t enjoy all stories as I felt they were too highbrow for me but some were truly masterpieces that I, who prefers normal stories like normal readers, enjoyed. I also enjoyed reading the preface why these stories were put together and what editor felt about them. There is also interview in the end with each author that includes what inspired them to write the story.

Review of each Twenty prizewinning stories

Brown Girl (3 ⭐) – this is about racism, life of immigrants, colonialism, and class that shapes the life of women of colour. Writing is poetic and I’m not poetry person. I also felt this isn’t for me and half the story went over my head.

Two Nurses (3 ⭐) – This is story of two nurses sharing their life stories during break. It is about abuse, PTSD. This was okay in the beginning but by the end I found it was well written.

Malliga Homes (5 ⭐) – This is set in Chennai, India. It is touching story told by a mother living in old age home and nursing facility with other old age parents whose kids left to live in other countries. This is a story I have seen often with my own eyes and so it felt very realistic and relatable. It was sad to see parents pinning to see their kids and grandkids who move on in life forgetting or more like neglecting parents’ feelings. It isn’t like their kids were bad and didn’t ask them to move with them to the country. Parents couldn’t adjust lifestyle in other countries as their whole life and comfort was their own home and friends in their home country but as there weren’t any close relatives to look after them they had no choice but live in old age home.

Endangered Species (4 ⭐) – This is heartbreaking story of black mother who was living in constant fear with all the news she heard about injustice towards black poeple. It is sad and interesting author gave the title of this story about black people an “Endangered Species”. That itself says a lot.

From Far Around They Sae us Burning (5⭐) – This is about historical injustice, story written from testimony and documents relating to fire at St. Joseph’s orphanage in Cavan on 23rd Feb, 1943. It was sad, heartbreaking and outrageous to read the way nuns and religious people running the orphanage treated girls, instilled fear of God and stuck to their religious and patriarchal discipline when fire started. They could have saved them all but didn’t do anything why, because girls were in nighties and they believed it is sin to be seen by village men in nighties! (Not much have changed. Even after so many years some people still consider religions, disciplines, and patrirchy above humanity.)

Things we Worried about When I was Ten (4⭐) This is about bully, abuse, life of unloved, misguided and ignored kids whose parents and adults around them were abusive. It was heartfelt and sad story.

Scissor (3.5⭐) – Set in borders of Mexico, about poverty, story of family of women left behind scavenging food and filled their bellies by selling their hairs. It is short and tragic story.

Witness (3.5 ⭐) – This story is about medical racism. It’s story of an African Immigrant who suffered from brain stroke but wasn’t treated well and her symptoms weren’t taken seriously as she was person of colour. It was tragic and so unfair to read what characters had to go through.

The Other One (4⭐) – The story is about betrayal, grief, and loss. It wasn’t as good as previous stories I enjoyed but I liked how in just few pages author told the story of a girl coping with loss and betrayal of her father, selfishness of her mother, and need of finding a connection with other girl who lived in accident and managed to surprise me in the end.

Becoming the Baby Girl (3.5 ⭐) – This has horrible beginning with professor letting his bodyguards in examination hall and checking girls by touching them to see if they are hiding any cheat sheet on their body. I was surprised to see this can happen in college and that professor could get away with it and girl was naive enough to be deceived by whole setup. The story is about manipulation, racism, exploitation, abuse, and helplessness.

Master’s castle (4⭐) – The story is about unrequited love, alcoholic wife and unhappy married life of average man who wasn’t good at anything except optometry. I like the message of the story how not getting what you wish for isn’t always bad thing, you still get get something special, and making life better is in your hands and within reach if you want to.

Living Sea (3⭐) – This is story of orphan life, mental health, and young love. The beginning and end is great but I didn’t enjoy the middle part.

Freedom from Want (3⭐) – This started well but as story progressed I lost interest in it. It is the story of 57 yrs old Saul suffering from liver cancer told from his sister’s POV. Like title suggests, I could see Saul’s need of ‘freedom from want’ in story but by the end it kinda lost its meaning.

Fisherman’s Stew (2.5⭐) – This is story of loss, grief, longing and love. Story of love even after death, of 67 yrs old wife who lost her husband but still imagined him loving her. This was too short and it didn’t give solid impression.

White Noise (3.5⭐) – Story about ‘me too’ movement, based om Harvey Weinstein, a story of culprit awaiting the verdict of sexual harrasement and rape trial. It was interesting to read culprit’s perspective who was arrogant and self-obsessed who didn’t see himself as predator, experiencing moments of humanity and fear near the day of verdict. Character felt unbelivabley human even though what he did was wrong.

Delandria (3⭐) – Story of young black professor who was driven on the edge by racism in academia.

Antediluvian (4⭐)– Story of award winning photojournalist who has nightmares and felt guilt for not doing enough for people whose stories he captured. This is about injuries inflicted by work and how that change the person.

Grief’s Garden (3.5⭐) – Story of wife who loved her husband so much that she gave up her life and devoted it in taking care of him. It was story of hope and longing.

To the Dog (2⭐) This might be realistic but I hated what they did to dogs in this story. If you’re dog lover, I will suggest skipping this story. It was gross, horrible and chilling story. Even in hardcore poverty, and dying of hunger I wouldn’t do this and I was disgusted by main character who didn’t take stand and went along with what men were doing to live and survive harsh winter, region, and job.

Colour and Light (3⭐) – This is story of love and heartbreak, of a boy working in hotel falling in love with mysterious girl came in town for holiday and was left heartbroken. This ended abruptly.

Overall, The Best Short Stories 2021 is well written, diverse, and poignant collection of twenty prizewinning stories with political writing.

I recommend this if you like,
Slow read
literary fictions
diverse themes and setting
Realistic and relatable stories
sad and depressing tone
Like stories featuring in NewYorker and such magazines

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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”


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