In her introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2021, guest editor Jesmyn Ward says that the best fiction offers the reader a “sense of repair.”The stories in this year’s collection accomplish just that, immersing the reader in powerfully imagined worlds and allowing them to bring some of that power into their own lives. From a stirring portrait of Rodney King’s final days to a surreal video game set in the Middle East,with real consequences, to an indigenous boy’s gripping escape from his captors, this collection renders profoundly empathetic depictions of the variety of human experience. These stories are poignant reminders of the possibilities of fiction: as you sink into world after world, become character after character, as Ward writes, you“forget yourself, and then, upon surfacing, know yourself and others anew.
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