The essential annual guide to the newest voices in short fiction, selected this year by Deesha Philyaw, Emily Nemens, and Sabrina Orah Mark
This anthology celebrates the most recent winners of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, which recognizes twelve writers who have made outstanding fiction debuts in literary magazines. This year’s selections were made by Sabrina Orah Mark, Emily Nemens, and Deesha Philyaw.
The stories in Best Debut Short Stories 2022 explore the dangers and possibilities of protest in Multan, Pakistan, in 1978; in the well-to-do neighborhoods of Melbourne, Australia, at the end of the millennium; and in the outskirts of Ramallah, Palestine, in the present day. They describe toxic homes and precarious lives and refuge sought in unlikely places: a bowling alley, a work affair, a noisy club, a neoclassical sanatorium, a school-turned-hostel near a flooded brownfield. They feature a pork bun made with a perfect spiral of dough, a bucket of eggs swarmed by crows, a drink made of chilled chicken blood and rose water, and a pale pink worm with five hearts who lives at the edge of the universe.
Each story is accompanied by a letter from the editor who first published it, providing insight about what's new and exciting in fiction today and recognizing the vital work of literary journals in nurturing new voices in literature.
Deesha Philyaw is the author of the short story collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, which won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church, and is being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. Deesha is also a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and will be the 2022-2023 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.
Emily Nemens is a writer, illustrator, and editor. Her debut novel, The Cactus League, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in February 2020 and released in paperback by Picador in 2021. From 2018 to 2021, Emily served as the editor of The Paris Review, the nation’s preeminent literary quarterly. During her tenure, the magazine saw record-high circulation, published two anthologies, produced the second season of its acclaimed podcast, and won the 2020 American Society of Magazine Editors’ Award for Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Blackbird (Tarumoto Prize winner), Esquire, n+1, The Iowa Review, Hobart, and The Gettysburg Review.
Sabrina Orah Mark is the author of the book-length poetry collections The Babies (2004), winner of the Saturnalia Book Prize chosen by Jane Miller, and Tsim Tsum (2009), as well as the chapbook Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin Arrives for a Visit & Other Tales from Woodland Editions. Her collection of stories, Wild Milk, was published by Dorothy in 2018. She has received fellowships from the Creative Capital Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. HAPPILY, her collection of essays on fairytales and motherhood which began as a monthly column in The Paris Review, is forthcoming from Random House.
“A tantalizing glimpse of the work of tomorrow’s literary luminaries.” —Poets & Writers
"Urgent fiction, from breakout talents." —Booklist
"A useful resource for writers, since each story is introduced by the editors of the literary magazine who first published each work, discussing what captured their interest and what makes the story successful." —Lyndsie Manusos, Book Riot