Contemporary American Short Story Book Group Online with Karen Secrist

Book Group: Contemporary American Short Story

4 Saturdays: May 18, June 1, June 15, June 29
10:30AM-12PM Pacific Time

Hosted via Zoom • $150
Classes will be recorded and video replay will be available for a limited time. 



* Note that for all classes held on Zoom, registration closes at noon the day before the class begins.  Same-day registrations are not available, so please plan ahead. 



In the words of author and professor Ben Marcus, “a short story works to remind us that if we are not sometimes baffled and amazed and undone by the world around us, rendered speechless and stunned, perhaps we are not paying close enough attention.” This book group takes up this challenge by exploring the cultural and geographic diversity of the 20th-century American short story.

Over the course of four sessions, we will traverse the literary landscape of the United States, from James Baldwin’s vividly depicted Harlem to Flannery O’Connor’s recently integrated American South and, finally, to Denis Johnson’s surreal midwestern highway. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in lively discussions, share their insights, and explore the thematic threads that bind these stories together. A reading guide will be provided to all participants a week before each session.

Session 1: James Baldwin – “Sonny’s Blues” (1957)

Session 2: Flannery O’Connor – “Everything That Rises Must Converge” (1965)

Session 3: Lucia Berlin – “A Manual for Cleaning Women” (1977)

Session 4: Denis Johnson – “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” (1992)


Karen Secrist is an educator, editor, dog lover, and voracious reader. She holds an M.A. in Contemporary Art from the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid and a Ph.D. in Spanish, Latin American, and Latinx Literature from Duke University. She currently lives in Galicia, Spain, along the Camino de Santiago.