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Soft Skull

The Best That You Can Do: Stories by Amina Gautier (Paperback)

The Best That You Can Do: Stories by Amina Gautier (Paperback)

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Fiction - Short Story Collection - African American & Black - Hispanic & Latino


Winner of the 2023 Soft Skull-Kimbilio Publishing Prize, a collection of short stories that elaborate the realities of a diasporic existence, split identities, and the beautiful potency of meaningful connections

Primarily told from the perspective of women and children in the Northeast who are tethered to fathers and families in Puerto Rico, these stories explore the cultural confusion of being one person in two places—of having a mother who wants your father and his language to stay on his island but sends you there because you need to know your family. Loudly and joyfully filled with Cousins, Aunts, Grandparents, and budding romances, these stories are saturated in summer nostalgia, and place readers at the center of the table to enjoy family traditions and holidays: the resplendent and universal language of survival for displaced or broken families.

Refusing to shy away from dysfunction, loss, obligation, or interrogating Black and Latinx heritages “If we flip the channels fast enough, we can turn almost anyone Puerto Rican, blurring black and white into Boricua.” Gautier's stories feature New York neighborhoods made of island nations living with seasonal and perpetual displacement. Like Justin Torres’ We the Animals, or Quiara Alegria Hudes’ My Broken Language, it’s the characters-in-becoming—flanked by family and rich with detail—that animate each story with special frequencies, especially for readers grappling split-identities themselves.


Amina Gautier, Ph.D., is the author of three short story collections: At-RiskNow We Will Be Happy, and The Loss of All Lost Things. Gautier is the recipient of the Blackwell Prize, the Chicago Public Library Foundation's 21st Century Award, the International Latino Book Award, the Flannery O'Connor Award, and the Phillis Wheatley Award in Fiction. For her body of work, she has received the PEN/MALAMUD Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

"Powerful . . . Gautier’s flashes of familial angst and political commentary ignite each entry. This packs a stinging punch." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Gautier has a real gift for finding dignity and bravery in the lives of ordinary women." —Kirkus Reviews

"The Best That You Can Do is another triumph for Amina Gautier. These stories show off the enormous range and versatility we fans have come to expect. In recent years Gautier has been performing ever greater feats of compression and distillation. In her hands, the microfiction or short-short is a jewel box to show off the scintillations of 'ordinary' experience, especially childhood experience. This is the luminous everyday, and Gautier's talent is incandescent." —Micahel Griffith, author of Bibliophilia and Trophy

“Amina Gautier’s The Best That You Can Do adds even more luster to her award-winning artistry. Sharp emotional focus offsets the blur afflicting people who ‘wisp into memory’ and jump from Puerto Rico to Bed Stuy to Lisbon to Chicago. The threat to Black lives staggers the souls of characters—and of readers. ‘Tears on Tap’ is a masterpiece, and the touching final stories blend with kaleidoscopic power, where intense love can rupture by the next page. But old lovers also seek one another out for a last gaze before they go blind, and the jewel-like ‘Slip’ offers a dazzling response to the pain of loss and solitude." —Katherine Vaz, author of Above the Salt, Mariana, Fado & Other Stories and Our Lady of the Artichokes

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