Winner of the Bard Fiction Prize and a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction, the Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award for a single-author collection
Joyce Carol Oates calls Clare Beams “wickedly sharp-eyed, wholly unpredictable . . . a female / feminist voice for the twenty-first century.”
The literary, historic, and fantastic collide in these wise and exquisitely unsettling stories. From bewildering assemblies in school auditoriums to the murky waters of a Depression-era health resort, Beams’s landscapes are tinged with otherworldliness, and her characters’ desires stretch the limits of reality.
Ingénues at a boarding school bind themselves to their headmaster’s vision of perfection; a nineteenth-century landscape architect embarks on his first major project, but finds the terrain of class and power intractable; a bride glimpses her husband’s past when she wears his World War II parachute as a gown; and a teacher comes undone in front of her astonished fifth graders.
As they capture the strangeness of being human, the stories in We Show What We Have Learned reveal Clare Beams’s rare and capacious imagination—and yet they are grounded in emotional complexity, illuminating the ways we attempt to transform ourselves, our surroundings, and each other.
“Stories as well executed as these are their own reward, but it’s also clear from the capaciousness on display here that Ms. Beams has novels’ worth of worlds inside her.” —New York Times
“A richly imagined and impeccably crafted debut . . . from the unflagging elegance of the prose to the wisdom with which Beams approaches the complex emotional terrain her characters navigate.” —Kirkus (starred review), Best Debut Fiction of 2016
“Imaginative, unsettling, and relentlessly sharp, the nine stories of the book are full of immersive detail and fully realized narrators that give believability to the fantastic.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Beams’s collection skillfully and alluringly navigates the border between the familiar and the unexpected, and beguiles and unsettles in equal measure.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Beams is an expert at providing odd and surprising details that make her stories come alive, and the result is a powerful collection about what we need from others and, in turn, what we can offer others of ourselves.” —Publishers Weekly
“This debut collection is full of promise and surreal delight. . . . We hope there’s much more to come from this writer.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Beams’s entire collection bewitches—and features complex female characters and feminist takes on broader themes to boot. A sharp eye for detail and an appreciation for emotional nuance underpin Beams’s ability to captivate readers, even as she eschews neat endings in favor of mysteries that linger into discomfort.” —Paste
“Beams’s stories, a cross between Aimee Bender’s and Karen Russell’s, are set in dreamy otherworldly places that are almost recognizable—but not quite. By making her metaphors literal, Beams creates magical—realist pieces that often calculate the high cost of being a woman.” —The Rumpus
“A collection of quiet and unnerving stories where everything is just slightly off-kilter, where the world feels just a little wrong. . . . These stories are angry and odd, and I loved them.” —Amanda Nelson, Book Riot
“Many [stories] take place in dreamy worlds where animalistic shadows hold the promise of renewal, or buildings mysteriously heal themselves. Within these boundaries, each story focuses a brilliant shaft of light on one person’s emotions as they reveal insecurities and secret longings, resulting in vulnerability and intimacy.” —Foreword
“Beams’s stories have a laser-focused honesty that reminds you of the pieces of yourself you’d rather not look at—the conformist, the manipulator, the egotist—yet her work is also profoundly generous, circling back again and again to the tremendous need that makes us behave in ways that are less than noble.” —Fiction Writers Review
“We Show What We Have Learned introduces readers to the brilliant mind of Clare Beams. It has the hair-raising electricity similar to that of a new generation of writers that includes Karen Russell, Diane Cook, David James Poissant, and Kelly Link, yet reads with the stateliness of a bygone era.” —Shelf Awareness“A dazzling story collection—as if, by a rare sort of magic, Alice Munro and Shirley Jackson had conspired together to imagine a female/feminist voice for the twenty-first century that is wickedly sharp-eyed, wholly unpredictable, and wholly engaging.” —Joyce Carol Oates, author of The Lost Landscape
“An elegant and assured debut, packed with confident prose—and stories with novel-like wholeness in the way of Munro and Cheever. The stories are imaginative and flecked with darkness and subtle societal commentary in the manner of Margaret Atwood; the characters are complex and rendered with psychological acuity. Smart, savage, and compulsively readable.” —Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women
“Stunning and brilliant. Clare Beams has a gift for illuminating one character’s most private moment, causing the impact to transform the fates of many. She navigates the tightrope between inner and outer reality. The range of her stories is astonishing—funny and devastating, suspenseful and mesmerizing.” —Ursula Hegi, author of Stones from the River
“These amazingly inventive stories reveal an imagination rare in its command and courage. In gorgeous prose that thrills, instructs, and thoroughly inspires, Clare Beams obliterates the ‘dividing line between possibilities and impossibilities,’ showing how our passions can rule with reality-bending magic.” —Chang-rae Lee, author of On Such a Full Sea
“These stories are at once spooky and lush, eerie and deeply felt, ghostly but also vibrantly alive. Clare Beams is a magician, and each of these stories is a muscular, artful haunting.” —Caitlin Horrocks, author of This Is Not Your City