ARC Review: Short, Vigorous Roots: A Contemporary Flash Fiction Collection of Migrant Voices

Short, Vigorous Roots is an anthology of flash fiction around the topic of immigration. The term “flash fiction” has differing definitions depending on who is using it. But the consensus is that flash fiction is writing that is shorter than a short story, and generally no more than 2000 words. In this anthology the forty stories are all 1000 words or less. 

Editors Budman and O’Neill invited first and second generation immigrants to submit stories for the anthology, and the authors have immigrated from countries around the world - Vietnam, India, Ukraine, China, Cuba, Poland and South Africa to name a few. In all thirty-two authors responded. Their stories have been grouped around four parts, loosely based on shared themes - Past the Limits of the Familiar, The Change is Slow, Inheriting the Earth, and Tired of Waiting for Home.

This is my first time attempting a review of an anthology, and my first time reading a collection of flash fiction. It can be tough to convey thoughts about a group of writings like this one so I’ll stick with overall impressions.

I have to give kudos to most of these writers for being able to pack so much story into so few words.  Some seem like scenes in a larger story, some a full story in themselves. The last story in the collection Hilsa in Hog Plum Sauce by Sayantika Mandal is one of the most complete. It’s also probably the sweetest story in the collection.

In the second part of the book, Amit Majmudar’s Throwing Down Roots seemed the most incomplete. Majmudar’s story is an allegory and I’m sure some would find it intriguing, but I confess I didn’t get the point. 

The tone of many of the stories is serious and some are downright downbeat. There are for example lost children, uncomfortable and unexpected goodbyes to colleagues, and fathers confronting double dealing “coyotes” in illegal border crossings. 

Even so, there are a few lighter moments, including the plum sauce story I referred to above.

One story, Stuart Stromin’s Crayfish Cocktail managed to convey a full story arc of happiness to tragedy in three short pages.

As you might expect this is a quick read. I completed it in one sitting. Yet, days later some of the stories have stuck with me. 

Overall this book would be of interest to anyone who is a first- or second-generation immigrant themselves, or who likes flash fiction, or is looking for a quick book to read. I give Short, Vigorous Roots Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐.

NOTE: I received an advanced copy of this book courtesy of LibraryThing, the authors and Ooligan Press. In return I am providing a fair and unbiased review. This anthology will be released in paperpack February 1, 2022.

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Title: Short, Vigorous Roots
Editors: Mark Budman & Susan O’Neill
Publisher: Ooligan Press
Publish Date: February 1, 2022
ISBN-13: 9781947845305
List Price: $16.00 (Paperback as of 01/2022)