Growing up, I was always a reader. From comics to science fiction, dystopian novels to love stories, I constantly had my head buried in a book, getting lost in a world vastly different from mine.
Somewhere along the way, however, the spark I had for literature started to die out.
I still don’t know what caused it.
Whether I got busier as I grew older or just less interested, I can’t be too sure about it. All I know is it became difficult to enjoy something I once had so much love for. Turning the pages was tiring instead of thrilling and it felt like I had to read the same page over and over and over again to process what was on it.
What came to me naturally was starting to feel like a chore. And after a while, I just gave up on it altogether.
Then something happened.
Recently, I was introduced to some short stories. All from different periods of time, touching on different topics and written in distinct ways.
Despite their differences, they all succeeded in one thing: they reminded me of my love for words.
Without further ado, here are the three short stories that made me fall back into love with reading.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Yellow Wallpaper presents itself in the form of diary entries of a young woman. The story explores the declining mental health of the unnamed protagonist who has recently given birth to her child, and now suffers from postpartum depression (something everyone around her doesn’t take seriously). She spends the summer in a room that was once a nursery, on a “rest-cure,” not allowed to do anything but that.
Published in 1892, the short story illustrates themes of captivity, infantilization and hysteria. These topics were quite taboo for its time, where this side of giving birth and the certain ramifications that came with it were always hushed, not even considered to be real.
The story’s progression had me enthralled. With each diary entry, the narrator grows more manic. Throughout the story, her psychosis is evidently declining and by the end, she’s almost unrecognizable. So far gone from who she was at the start of the summer season.
Only a victim to her prison-like environment, you can’t help feeling a great sense of pity for the main character, wishing she got the help she desperately needed and the support she deserved.
Overall, this short story was one that challenged taboos at its time and even today, it still resonates with many readers.
Boys and girls by alice munro
Alice Munro examines traditional gender roles in Boys and Girls, from the perspective of the protagonist, a young girl who is never named. This girl expresses her disdain towards her mother trying to force her to work in the traditional, domestic setting, and her love towards working with her father on his farm.
Without spoiling too much of the impactful short story, after a series of events, the young girl finds herself trapped from the same roles she was once running from.
The story is disheartening and gloomy and everything in between.
But, it’s also someone's bitter reality.
To see the spirit and identity of this young girl be ripped away from her so quickly left me with a void in my stomach and an uneasy feeling in my chest. Almost like when your throat starts tightening up when you want to cry, but you try to push it down instead acting like it doesn’t bother you.
The story is heartbreaking yet beautiful, all at the same time. It goes to show that sad, bitter and resentful endings sometimes turn out to be the best ones.
the management of grief by bharati mukherjee
Brace yourself for this last story.
Based on a very real and painful tragedy, The Management of Grief tells the story of the narrator, Shaila Bhave, and the loss of her husband and two sons in the Air India Flight 182 crash that left no survivors.
We see Shaila and community members around her go on a journey in the aftermath of a horrific event, characters who are struck with sudden and profound grief not knowing where to go on from here.
It’s heart-wrenching, and maybe I cried more than I’d like to admit while reading, but the story’s hopeful ending left me at ease (somewhat).
There was a different type of connection I felt to this story, as there is a shared cultural background. The places Shaila went to, the cultural norms and values she spoke of, the way she was expected to behave and more, I understood them from a firsthand basis.
I knew what she spoke of when referenced to a place named Rishikesh, a city in northern India. I knew what she meant when she said, “In our culture, it is a parent’s duty to hope,” (Mukherjee) speaking of not wanting to let go of the hope that her loved ones are still out there, somewhere.
I understood it all. Maybe I understand it in a way someone else wouldn’t, I’m not too sure.
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Maybe these stories do have one thing in common after all; loss. The loss of your sanity, identity or even loved ones, this theme was prevalent in all. I think that was a coincidence…maybe.
All three short stories have helped me gain back a long-lost love. The world of literature has welcomed me back with open arms; I can’t wait to dive back into it.