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Grove Press

Neighbors and Other Stories by Diane Oliver (Hardcover)

Neighbors and Other Stories by Diane Oliver (Hardcover)

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Fiction - Literary - Short Story Collection 


A bold and haunting debut story collection that follows various characters as they navigate the day-to-day perils of Jim Crow racism from Diane Oliver, a missing figure in the canon of twentieth-century African American literature, with an introduction by Tayari Jones

A remarkable talent far ahead of her time, Diane Oliver died in 1966 at the age of 22, leaving behind these crisply told and o

ften chilling tales that explore race and racism in 1950s and 60s America. In this first and only collection by a masterful storyteller finally taking her rightful place in the canon, Oliver’s insightful stories reverberate into the present day.

There’s the nightmarish “The Closet on the Top Floor” in which Winifred, the first Black student at her newly integrated college, starts to physically disappear; “Mint Juleps not Served Here” where a couple living deep in a forest with their son go to bloody lengths to protect him; “Spiders Cry without Tears,” in which a couple, Meg and Walt, are confronted by prejudices and strains of interracial and extramarital love; and the high tension titular story that follows a nervous older sister the night before her little brother is set to desegregate his school.

These are incisive and intimate portraits of African American families in everyday moments of anxiety and crisis that look at how they use agency to navigate their predicaments. As much a social and historical document as it is a taut, engrossing collection, Neighbors is an exceptional literary feat from a crucial once-lost figure of letters.


Diane Oliver was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and after graduating from high school, she attended Women's College (which later became the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and was the Managing Editor of The Carolinian, the student newspaper. She published four short stories in her lifetime and three more posthumously: 'Key to the City' and 'Neighbors' published in The Sewanee Review in 1966; 'Health Service', 'Traffic Jam' and 'Mint Juleps Not Served Here' published in Negro Digest in 1965, 1966 and 1967 respectively; 'The Closet on the Top Floor' published in Southern Writing in the Sixties in 1966; and '"No Brown Sugar in Anybody's Milk"' published in The Paris Review in 2023. 'Neighbors' was a recipient of an O. Henry Award in 1967. Diane began graduate work at the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop and was awarded the MFA degree posthumously days after her death, at the age of 22, in a motorcycle accident in 1966.

"A remarkable collection of Jim Crow-era stories from a major talent . . . Oliver's published and unpublished work testifies both to her immense raw talent as a young writer and to the major figure she might have become if she'd had the chance to develop. Her stories deal with the everyday lives of Black families of all classes as they contend with issues such as segregation, poverty, and prejudice and their own hopes for the future . . . With a crystalline clarity and finely attuned ear, Oliver depicts her subjects with elegance and profound understanding." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Extraordinary . . . The author's heartfelt and resplendent writing is loaded with an earthy complexity reminiscent of Zora Neale Hurston--indeed, novelist Tayari Jones names Oliver along with Hurston, Toni Morrison, and Ann Petry as "literary foremothers" in her introduction. Oliver's brilliant stories belong in the American canon."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This first full story collection reveals her to be an adventurous writer who deftly captured the pervasive daily pressures of living while Black in the midst of white-dominant society . . . The stories read like tightly wrought suspense with an edge toward horror, and Oliver uses wide- ranging forms to create riveting effects . . . Oliver uses subtlety and nuance like a knife. These stories reveal a writer who was willing to explore and stretch, telling honest, bared-open stories of her time and now of ours."--Library Journal (starred review)

"Oliver's marvelous, posthumously published short story collection illustrates life in the Jim Crow South. These 14 vivid, transportive tales, some never before published, portray deeply layered characters in scenes that convey the heart-rending, life-threatening reality of segregated America . . . A necessary addition to the American canon and every library collection."--Booklist (starred review)

"In Neighbors and Other Stories, the late Diane Oliver writes of Civil Rights-era domestic life, racial justice, and personal intimacies with such beautiful self-possession. Full of keen observations, crisp prose, and astute social commentary, this is a collection overflowing with complexities and vigor, from a brilliant talent we lost much too soon."--Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

"The publication of Diane Oliver's Neighbors and Other Stories is an important event in African American and American letters, a restoration of an extraordinarily gifted young writer's work to our ongoing literary conversation. The solidity of the prose and the intimately drawn people in these stories results in an eeriness and a forcefulness that cannot be denied. This robust collection is an eloquent and inventive response to the hardships and dilemmas caused by the nightmare of American racism."--Jamel Brinkley, author of Witness

"Diane Oliver wrote with audacity, wit, and a wisdom beyond her years, fearlessly switching the lens to take in her world and the intimate lives of women and girls passing through it. I want to press a copy of NEIGHBORS into the hands of every Black writer and reader I know, so that we might marvel together at these gifts she left us."--Dawnie Walton, author of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

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