Last year, I stumbled upon on a Twitter project called Short Story of the Day. The creator, Rahawa Haile, shared hundreds of exceptional short stories by underrepresented writers. Her daily tweets introduced me to an endless list of literary journals and talented authors. I bookmarked Sofia Samatar’s “Honey Bear” and told friends to read Joanna Ruocco’s stream of consciousness in 3AM Magazine. Rahawa’s recommendations were equally noteworthy and reliable. Names like Jorge Ortega, Kendra Fortmeyer and Jessica Forciers were suddenly familiar. But who was Rahawa Haile?
Naturally, I began scouring the Internet for her writing. I quickly discovered that her stories ranged from gripping first-person narratives about her Eritrea homeland to all-consuming thoughts over a slice of cake. Rahawa’s sentences made you pay attention, and immediately you began to see how she viewed the world — genuinely idyllic and constantly aware. As a writer, she has the gift of accurately assessing her environment. Overlooked desserts, racial inequalities and jarring juxtapositions all find their place in her work. She is constantly urging readers to pay attention.
At the time of our interview in DUMBO, Rahawa was preparing to uproot her life in Brooklyn and begin an adventurous journey through the Appalachian Trail. This struck me as wonderfully appropriate. Here, the writer and self-described wanderer tells Design*Sponge what books hold her attention and why short stories will always be her favorite genre. —Glory Edim
Photography by Opiyo Okeyo
Why is DUMBO your favorite place to read?
This is one of my favorite reading spaces, thanks to the harmony of neighboring infrastructure. Watching the bridges watch the East River. Watching the Brooklyn Bridge eye the subway cars riding across the Manhattan. Hearing the rumble of cars. Hearing the lapping of waves. Watching various helicopters sway Manhattanside. And sitting still in the middle of it all. When the wonder of reading meets the wonder of that, it’s easy to love the city and its circulatory system even when it fails to love you back.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Grandma Gatewood’s Walk in preparation for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt in March.
Describe yourself as a reader.
I am a slow reader of good novels, a giver-upper of bad ones, and a rapid re-reader of short stories. Nonfiction I glance at with the apologetic smile that comes from knowing I will never get around to most of it.
Which essayists do you admire most?
Too many to list. I will say I admire essayists who don’t treat their human subjects as incidental. Journalists and essayists with a penchant for staid disaster tourism pieces are the bane of my existence.
What specific genres do you enjoy reading?
I am an unabashed lover of short stories and ran a Short Story of the Day Twitter project in 2015. I’m typically drawn to the weirder ones because they feel like a succession of revelatory hugs for my brain from countless tentacled strangers.
Tell us about your favorite childhood book.
The first book I read that felt like it was for me was Maniac Magee. Watching a white character detangle a massive knot is as close as I came to feeling like someone fictional understood the hair nights of black women.
What book(s) do you find yourself recommending to friends?
These days it’s mostly short story collections and the next Graywolf Press knockout.
How do you decide what book to read next?
I ask myself what I need and what I want and try to find the strangest medium.
Find more of Rahawa’s Short Story of the Day recommendations here!
*Reading Spaces is a new column where we peek into author bookshelves and personalities.