Skip to main content

We Are Taking Only What We Need: Stories


We Are Taking Only What We Need: Stories

It’s no easy thing to translate voice and plotting smoothly between forms, and Stephanie Powell Watts’ ability to do so is only one of the many skills that makes her an absolute master of literary craft. WE ARE TAKING ONLY WHAT WE NEED collects 10 of her short stories as part of Ecco’s The Art of the Story series, featuring “short fiction from some of the world’s most beloved and acclaimed authors.”

Watts has certainly established herself as that, with her highly acclaimed debut novel, NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US, coming out last year to high praise. Her writing is luminescent and ferocious. She focuses primarily on middle- and lower-income black folks in the South, and explores these often-untold narratives with empathy, warmth and incisive literary precision.

"Stephanie Powell Watts has beyond proved herself to be an absolute must-read for any lover of literature and smart, biting writing."

In “If You Hit Randall County, You’ve Gone Too Far,” Watts writes with incredible compassion about a family’s celebratory dinner for an incarcerated son out on bail. In “Do You Remember the Summer of Love?” an exhausted young woman navigates the advances of an older man. In “All the Sad Etc.,” a family visits a relative in a mental hospital. And in the title story, a girl encounters surprising experiences of loss in the fallout of her father’s relationship with her babysitter.

These are stories that are happening every day, that have been happening in America for decades. These are snapshots of neighbors, folks you pass on the street --- or at least ones you would if you lived in certain small towns. The South has been a ripe setting for the form of short fiction, many stories using it as a backdrop for heartache, compassion and violence. Here, Watts enters into and revitalizes this canon.

She writes of faith and love, self-discovery and desperation, cruelty and endurance. She writes of joblessness and helplessness, institutional inequality and the quiet viciousness people can enact upon each other. She writes with wry wit, sharp vision and warm humor.

Watts translates the tight-knit grace and interlocking precision she uses to craft a strong novel and shape short stories, and makes it feel almost effortless. Her work in both mediums is equally exquisite, which is no meager feat. Her writing is precise and evocative, and within each and every one of these tales, whole worlds blossom. Her writing is frugal, but these stories are rich.

Stephanie Powell Watts has beyond proved herself to be an absolute must-read for any lover of literature and smart, biting writing. If you haven’t read her yet, please do so now.

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on February 9, 2018

We Are Taking Only What We Need: Stories
by Stephanie Powell Watts

  • Publication Date: February 6, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 0062749900
  • ISBN-13: 9780062749901