I found this assignment devilishly difficult. Should I pick a theme? Should I choose only people I know? Only people I don’t know? I live in fear of leaving people out, even though I know there’s no way. Best to offend everyone, surely.
But I have recently, for obvious reasons, been thinking about my friend and former student, the Canadian-Ukrainian writer Maria Reva, and her flat-out brilliant book Good Citizens Need Not Fear, a collection of connected stories that take place in a crumbling Soviet-era apartment block in Ukraine. The book came out in the early days of the pandemic and didn’t get 1% of the attention it deserved: it is hilarious, dark, every story different, every story intricately connected. Two of the stories were published in editions of The Best American Short Stories. My favorite story is called “Little Rabbit,” which takes place in an orphanage for children with disabilities and includes visual instructions on how to cut an old tire into a swan.
First published as ‘Unsound’ in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern 53, August 2018; collected in Good Citizens Need Not Fear, Doubleday, 2020