SHORT READINGS: 25 MG/YA Short Story/Personal Essay Anthologies
by Lesley Roessing
The Value & Importance of Short Stories
There are a multitude of reasons for including short stories in the curriculum and student reading.
Many readers have not built up reading stamina. When they do read novels, they choose novels below their reading levels, they abandon novels before finishing, or they read Spark Notes, summaries, or find other ways to avoid actually reading. Short stories are, by definition, short. Short stories range in lengths, varying from 1,500 to 10,000 or more words. Therefore, reader stamina can be slowly increased with complete texts, while giving readers a sense of accomplishment because they have finished an entire text.
Short stories also are valuable resources when classes or students are short on time or when students neglect to bring their independent reading books to class.
Short stories provide useful teaching tools. At the beginning of the year, before tackling a class novel, I used short stories to teach or review literary elements, author’s craft, and to teach and apply reading strategies. I would choose a short story based on the element, such as setting, that I wished to highlight in my focus lesson and would also use that short story to focus on a reading strategy. We would then put it all together when reading our whole-class novel.
Short stories can be employed as an introduction to, and practice for, Book Clubs. Teachers can employ Short-Story Clubs to teach and practice Book Club social skills, such as preparing for and holding effective discussions, and for practicing meeting strategies and guidelines before a class embarks on novel book clubs (see Talking Texts: A Teachers’ Guide for Book Clubs across the Curriculum for more on short story and other text clubs). Short-Story Clubs offer the same opportunities as Book Clubs; members of a club can read and discuss a short story over 1-2 meetings and make a short presentation for the class. Advanced readers could read different short stories on the same topic or theme within a Club, comparing and contrasting stories individually read, or each Short-Story Club member could read a different story by the same author and the members could analyze the author’s craft.
The Value of Anthologies
- They introduce students to new authors, most of whom have written YA novels which students might become interested in reading.
- The stories/essays in most of these anthologies are centered around a topic (sports) or theme (prejudice), offering differing perspectives and voices on that topic or theme.
- Anthologies contain stories of various lengths, reading and interest levels, genres, and formats, allowing readers to find one or more stories that match them as readers.
- Anthologies, especially the more current publications, offer culturally-diverse characters and authors as well as an assortment of genres and perspectives.
22 Short Story and 3 Personal Essay Anthologies
Flying Lessons & Other Stories (2017) – Ellen Oh, ed. (with We Need Diverse Books)
These ten stories about family, neighborhood, young love, racism, loss, poverty, sports, compassion, and dreams, written in a variety of genres and representing characters with diverse in ethnicity, race, religions, ability, and sexuality, represent multiple perspectives. The stories were written by popular MG authors Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kelly Baptist.
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America (2019) – Ibi Zoboi, ed.
Zoboi invited “sixteen other Black authors to write about teens examining, rebelling against, embracing, or simply existing within their own ideas of Blackness” (xiii) in a book that invites some adolescents to see their lives and experiences reflected and invites others to experience the lives of their contemporaries. This anthology featured some of my favorite authors—Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Tracey Baptiste, Kekla Magoon, while meeting authors new to me, such as Leah Henderson, Dhonielle Clayton, Justina Ireland, and Ibi Zoboi. But even more interesting to me was that my favorite stories in the anthology were the type of plots I don’t usually gravitate to—stories with a bit of a twist. These stories broadened my reading horizons.
Fresh Ink: An Anthology (2019) – Lamar Giles, ed. (with We Need Diverse Books)Twelve new stories—10 prose, 1 graphic story, and a 1-act play (published posthumously by some of the most popular, culturally-diverse, contemporary YA authors, such as Walter Dean Myers, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon, Daniel Jose Older, and Sharon Flake. These stories present Muslim, Native, LBGTQ, Black, Iranian, Latinx, Filipina, and Japanese characters whose race or gender presents a challenge. Editor Giles states in his Introduction that his hope is, with this book, readers find heroes that looks, thinks, or feels like them and, “if not, …find glimpses into other worlds that are both respectful and enlightening.”
How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity (2009) – Michael Cart, ed.Twelve stories that present modern views of love, sexuality, and gender identification and LGBTQ experience by such authors as David Levithan, Margo Lanagan, Francesca Lia Block, William Sleator. Jacqueline Woodson, Gregory Maguire, Ron Koertge, Emma Donoghue, and Julie Ann Peters.
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices (2013) –Mitali Perkins, ed.
Ten fiction and memoir stories, written in a variety of genre—graphic stories, free verse, and prose—and perspectives—first person and third, about growing up between cultures by authors Mitali Perkins, Varian Johnson, David Yoo, G. Neri, Naomi Shahib Nye, Cherry Cheva, Debbie Rigaud, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Francisco Stork, and Gene Luen Yang.
The Hero Next Door (2019) – Olugbenisola Rhuday-Perkovich, ed. (We Need Diverse Books)
These thirteen MG short stories explore everyday acts of bravery among our families, neighbors, and friends; deeds that make our world a better, kinder place to live. A true multicultural collection, authors include familiar and new (to some readers) names from diverse cultures, such as R.J. Palacio, Linda Sue Park, Hena Khan, Cynthia Leitich, Ellen Oh, Lamar Giles, and Joseph Bruchac, whose stories offer diverse characters and a variety of perspectives.
Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens (2018) – Marieke Nijkamp, ed.
The protagonists in each of these fictional stories are challenged by a diverse range of disabilities, such vision and ambulation impairment, anxiety, chronic pain, Bi-Polar Disorder, schizophrenia, cerebral palsy, and autism, and are offered different levels of support. This is a true windows-mirrors collection that will invite readers into the worlds of those who navigate life differently, even in different time periods and also feature culturally-diverse characters. As an #OwnVoices collection, all the authors identify as disabled along a physical, mental, or neuro-diverse axis, authors, many new to me, such as Francisco X, Stork, Heidi Heilig, Dhonielle Clayton, Corinne Duyvis, and Kody Keplinger.
Prejudice: A Story Collection (1998) – Daphne Muse, ed.
A collection of short stories about adolescents facing prejudice and ignorance of many types—prejudice about body image, disability, sexuality, gender, race, religion, and class issues. The stories expose the impact of prejudice on adolescents but also how it is possible for prejudice to transform into understanding, giving us hope for the future. The characters are diverse—Latinx, Black, Asian-American, Jewish, LBGTQ, immigrant, and teens with disabilities. The authors of these fifteen stories include such well-known names as Jacqueline Woodson, Flannery O’Connor, Sandra Cisneros, Chris Crutcher, and Mitali Perkins. Even though this anthology is over twenty years old, the stories are still relevant.
Shelf Life: Stories by the Book (2003) – Gary Paulsen, ed.
In his Introduction, author Gary Paulsen states, “Books saved my life. First reading and then writing them.…books are the reason I survived my miserable childhood.” Paulsen tasked ten authors to write stories for this collection, stories that feature books, real or fictious and the young people who are changed by their encounters with books. The stories, which “range from fantasy to farce, from realism to science fiction,” were created by authors such as Margaret Peterson Haddix, Ellen Wittlinger, M.T. Anderson, A, LaFaye, and Joan Bauer.
Necessary Noise: Stories about Our Families as They Really Are (2003) – Michael Cart, ed.
All families are different and can be defined by connections between people not necessarily biologically related. Some children live in ever-changing family structures. Editor Michael Cart invited ten sYA authors, such as Nikki Grimes, Sonya Sones, Walter Dean Myers, and Lois Lowry, to write stories about what “family” means in today’s world.
Going Where I’m Coming From: Memoirs of American Youth (1995) - Anne Mazer, ed.
These fourteen memoirs about immigration and bridging cultures, are set in Watts, Hawaii, New York, Boston, Cleveland, San Antonio, NJ, the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, the San Joaquin Valley, and rural Alabama. These stories of identity and self-discovery were written by such diverse authors as Luis Rodriguez, Ved Mehta, Thylias Moss, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lensey Namioka, and Gary Soto.
Connections (1990) – Donald R. Gallo, ed.
Seventeen stories about connections among teens divided into ‘Encounters,” “Clashes,” “Surprises,” and “Insights,” introducing readers to such authors as Sue Ellen Bridgers, Robin Brancato, Gordon Korman, Ouida Sebestyen, M.E.Kerr, and Judie Angell.
Ultimate Sports (1995) – Donald R. Gallo, ed.
Sixteen original stories about basketball and football, track and cross-country, water sports, racquetball and tennis, boxing and wrestling, featuring both male and female athletes. These stories are not only about the sports, they are about the advantages, such as teamwork, self-esteem, overcoming adversity, and perseverance, as well as the disappointments, competitions, and physical and psychological injuries that can result. Authors include Harry Mazer, Norma Fox Mazer, Carl Deuker, Will Weaver, Todd Strasser, and sports reporter Robert Lipsyte.
First Crossing: Stories about Teen Immigrants (2007) – Donald Gallo, ed.
From 1994 to 2017, the population of immigrant children in the United States grew by 51 percent, to 19.6 million, or one-quarter of all U.S. children. The ten fictional stories in this collection describe teen immigrants navigating not only the typical challenges of adolescence but also a new country and will provide a mirror and map for immigrant readers and help other readers gain insights into the lives of some of their peers. The diverse group of authors include Minfong Ho, Jean Davies Okimoto, Dian Curtis Regan, and Pam Munoz Ryan.
What Are You Afraid Of?: Stories about Phobias – Donald R. Gallo, ed.
A phobia is not just a fear but an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something, a debilitating anxiety. Eleven authors, including Joan Bauer, Alex Flinn, Neil Shusterman, Nancy Springer, Angela Johnson, and David Lubar, present ten stories about agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and intense fears of clowns, sharp knives, crossing streets, string, and public speaking and how their characters deal with these phobias.
No Easy Answers: Short Stories about Teenagers Making Tough Choices (1999) – Donald R. Gallo, Ed
Daily, adolescents face moral dilemmas and have tough choices to make and, when doing so, will face consequences—positive or negative. Some decisions affect their current lives and some will affect their futures. Sixteen YA authors, such as Will Weaver, M.E. Kerr, Gloria Miklowitz, Graham Salisbury, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Jack Gantos, and Walter Dean Myers, have contributed stories about teens dealing with such crises as peer pressure, unplanned pregnancy, drug us, gang violence—problems to which there are no easy answers.
Owning It; Stories about Teens with Disabilities (2008) – Donald R. Gallo, ed.
Ten original short stories about physical and psychological disabilities, such as ADD, Tourette’s Syndrome, alcoholism, blindness, obesity, asthma, brain damage, and cancer, written by such authors as Chris Crutcher, David Lubar, Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, Gail Giles, and Robert Lipsyte.
Visions: 19 Short Stories (1988) – Donald R. Gallo, ed.
Nineteen original short stories about the joys and sorrows of teens, including romance, family divorce, death and loss, written by such authors as Fran Arrick, Joan Aiken, Cin Forshay-Lunsford, Jane Yolen, and Lensey Namioka.
Join In: Multiethnic Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults (1993) – Donald R. Gallo, ed.
Seventeen original short stories about connections and confrontations, friendships, identity, prejudice, expectations by such authors as Rita Williams Garcia, Linda Crew, Minfong Ho, Gloria Gonzalez, Julius Lester, and Danny Romero.
Twelve Shots: Outstanding Short Stories about Guns (1997) – Harry Mazer, ed
Twelve stories featuring the world of guns and how they different adolescents in divergent paces and situations, written by such authors as Walter Dean Myers, Richard Peck, Chris Lynch, Frederick Bush, and Rita Williams-Garcia.
Visions of Fantasy: Tales from the Masters (1989) – Isaac Asimov aand Martin H. Greenberg, eds
According to editor Asimov, “Fantasy is an story that isn’t true, and can’t be.” This collection will introduce adolescent readers to fantasy or to acquaint fantasy-readers to a variety of popular fantasy authors. The twelve stories feature witches, princes, dragons, victims, and evil forces and were written by such writers as Ray Bradbury, Madeleine L’Engle, Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville, and Isaac Asimov.
Hope Nation: YA Authors Shares Personal Moments of Inspiration (2018) – Rose Brock, ed.
Contemporary adolescents are dealing with a variety of issues and feelings of powerlessness in a complex world that sometimes feels hopeless. Twenty-four YA authors speak to teens through poetry, essays, and letters of hope in this nonfiction, rather than short story, collection. They inspire readers by sharing difficult childhoods and obstacles and experiences they overcame. Readers will appreciate the personal stories of authors of their favorite novels, such as David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Libba Bray, Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, and I.W.Gregorio.
Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage (2018) - Amy Klobuchar, ed.
A collection of personal stories from actors, activists, athletes, politicians, musicians, writers, and teens who share stories of facing challenges and adversity, and even hatred, because of their race, gender, or sexual identity—but, nevertheless, persisted through these obstacles to achieve success in their fields and lives. These are stories of resilience that will resonate with some readers, enlighten others, and inspire all. Some of the contributors that teen readers will meet are teen activist Gavin Grimm, actor Maulik Pancholy, fashion model Jillian
and chef Maneet Chauhan, While most entires are essays or personal narratives, some are creatively written in such formats as a graphic story, a script, a conversation, and an interview.
You Too?: 25 Voices Share Their #MeToo Stories (2020) – Janet Gurtler, ed.
Teens should realize that no young person—female or male—should be subject to sexual assault, or made to feel unsafe, less than, or degraded. Twenty-five YA authors share personal stories of physical and verbal abuse, harassment, and assault—from strangers, acquaintances, and family members. Included in this volume are stories of trial, loss, shame, and resilience and, most important, acknowledging self-worth. These essays illustrate to adolescent readers that there is no “right” way to deal with trauma; each survivor has to find their own way of processing and surviving trauma. This book will not only provide a mirror, sometimes unexpectedly, for some readers and a window for others, helping to build empathy, but will offer a map for many readers. This is a book that needs to be read and discussed by young women and men and the adults in their lives. Some familiar authors of diverse cultures who share their experiences are Eileen Hopkins, Cheryl Rainfield, Patty Blout, Ronni Davis, Nicholas DiDomizio, Andrea L. Rogers, and Lulabel Seitz.
The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection (2018) – Colby Sharp, ed.
Every story starts with an inspiration—a picture, an object, a news article, a scene, a memory, the list can be endless. One of the most creative collections I have read, this Project celebrates not only stories, but story seeds. Editor and teacher Colby Sharp tasked 44 well-known and beloved authors with creating story prompts for each other, and the resulting short prose stories, graphic stories, poems, and illustrations can, in turn, be employed as mentor writings and prompts. Contributors include Grace Lin, Tracey Baptiste, R.J. Palacio, Kate DiCamillo, Lemony Snicket, Naolmi Shihab Nye, Sherman Alexie, Linda Sue Park, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Kate Messner. This book will be a treasure for teachers of reading and writing and will entice even the most reluctant readers.
Lesley is the author of Bridging the Gap: Reading Critically & Writing Meaningfully to Get to the Core; Comma Quest: The Rules They Followed. The Sentences They Saved; No More “Us” & “Them: Classroom Lessons and Activities to Promote Peer Respect; The Write to Read: Response Journals That Increase Comprehension; the recently-published Talking Texts: A Teachers’ Guide to Book Clubs across the Curriculum and has contributed chapters to Young Adult Literature in a Digital World: Textual Engagement though Visual Literacy and Queer Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the English Language Arts Curriculum, and the upcoming Story Frames. She served as past editor of Connections, the award-winning journal of the Georgia Council of Teachers of English and, as columnist for AMLE Magazine, shared before, during, and after-reading response strategies across the curriculum through ten “Writing to Learn” columns.