Short Story Club Selections for November 2021

A few of us last night got online together and talked some about the stories “The Tenth of December,” by George Saunders; “Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, And No Apology,” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires; and “The Lady with the Toy Dog,” by Anton Chekhov.

In November, we’re reading:

“The Monkey’s Paw,” by W. W. Jacobs (1902)


“The Dog of the Marriage,” in the collection by the same name by Amy Hempel (2005)


“Soul Case,” in the collection “Falling in Love with Hominids,” by Nola Hopkinson (2015).

We will gather online in November 2021 to discuss. Let me know if you’d like to join by commenting on this post or finding me on Twitter @erinhadelunde .

Unintentional Bookshelf Decolonization

I was in middle school, maybe, when my mom and I helped re-seed a trail over a small number of indigenous burial mounds that had been worn down by hikers in our nearby state park. I remember distinctly that we and a dozen or so other volunteers formed something of an assembly line that snaked around the burial mounds. We moved dirt and grass seed and water down the line. We dug out an appropriate path that lead around the mounds. The whole process took maybe an hour.

I remember very vaguely there was someone from a local tribe who blessed the new grass seed. I was intrigued by the process. Probably the hikers who trod the trails over the mounds were ignorant about what was underfoot. Likely, no one had any clue.

I went to a pow wow once when I was in high school. I was entranced by the dancing, of course, and the importance of detail. But even though I was curious, I never did learn much about the indigenous people. I didn’t even know our local tribes.

I have heard the phrase “decolonize your bookshelf” quite a lot over these past few years, but I didn’t realize that I was in the process of doing it, somewhat unintentionally. I have not read — as in read in print — any books lately by indigenous authors (though I did read the novel “There There” by Tommy Orange semi-recently), but I have been listening to a number of podcasts by and about indigenous peoples for a while.

I have to share this tweet about the whole listening-to-is-not-reading debate bullshit:

Randi Jo
As a Mohawk librarian, when I defend audiobooks, it’s personal. My people were telling stories orally long before stories came packaged in book form. There are many ways to “read” something. There are a thousand ways to tell a story.

Find the whole thread here.

In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, check out these podcasts:

I have a lot to learn and re-learn.
Stay curious. I’m trying.

But It’s Iowa

We kept the kids home. We un-enrolled from our lives. We ordered little kid masks. We took them out of swimming lessons. We didn’t go to parks for a time. We put up a playset in our yard. And then a pool. And then two other pools, after the first and second ones broke. We didn’t go to Thanksgiving or Christmas last year. We turned a room or two into a “school room.” I facilitated distance learning for my then-first grader while trying to get my then-too-little-for-traditional-school online school options via I did this while the baby transformed from an infant to a toddler to a climber.

We wore special masks. We turned down social invitations. We tried to enroll the kids in special vaccine trials. We got vaccinated as soon as possible. We kept our kids up-to-schedule with their other vaccinations.

We kept our oldest home from school, even after the district opened up in February of this year to going back to in-person. Finally, at the end of March, we did send him back.

We didn’t do traditional camps over the summer. We did do a lot of outdoor stuff, like mountain biking, and in my case, running.

We haven’t been to an indoor restaurant for a long ass time. Years? But really, who wants to dine indoors (or anywhere, ever) with kids. We don’t go to movies. We don’t go to the fucking Frozen musical that would be so cool for my six-year-old daughter to see.

All of the adults and old-enough kids with whom we socialize are vaccinated. Some are even antsy to get a booster.

My husband took our older two kids to a Cub Scouts camping trip (outdoors, clearly). I took my toddler to Iowa to see my family. Who is grieving. Who is sad. Who has lost so much.

In Iowa, my toddler caught COVID-19. My toddler. Who doesn’t go to daycare. Who doesn’t go to ECFE. Who doesn’t go to Sunday School or playdates. Who follows me around, day and night. He caught it from family who have, now confirmed, breakthrough cases.

And now I have the virus. As does my husband. My big kids, so far, do not.

But they’re out of school for the next two weeks and, woe is me, I will be facilitating some lackadaisical version of distance learning for a second grader and a kindergartner while keeping my mask on and my toddler upstairs. Maybe I will employ Alexa somehow.

We have mild symptoms. Other than anger. My anger (and self-pity) is pretty severe.

Plus, it’s my birthday on Friday. And I had special plans.

In Iowa.

In Grief: Day 40

Today, I’m in the bright sunshine of my favorite season in my favorite month. I’m digging out some inspiration like it’s the crust around the lid of the yogurt container that needs to come out or damn it my kids will disown me for having to resort to another kind of breakfast; I’m trying, man. I’ve come up with two story ideas and a challenge for myself. I’m re-connecting with my Creativity Matters group and my Short Story Club.

And then I have the thought: I’d like to get a tattoo of my family tree on my left collarbone (which, yes, is over my heart. But that’s not even what I was thinking, originally. I wanted words across the bone.). When I finished that thought, I burst into tears. I wouldn’t say my mood darkened. I’m just feeling somewhat fragile, I guess.

This weekend, my toddler and I went down to my parents’ and saw my sister. We cried a few times. We laughed, too. But then we cried some more. And then my mom and I saw a YouTube video that some friends of my nephew’s created in honor of him. And then we wept and wept, even though my dad said it was a happy thing.

Yes, it was so happy. My nephew had so many friends. They loveloveloved him.

Now I’m crying in the car while my toddler sleeps (we are parked).

I have a new sensation in my chest and throat. It arrived on Saturday. I feel like I swallowed several jumbo cotton balls and that they’re wedged at the base of my throat. I have some trouble breathing deeply.

This is how the 40th day feels to me.