These twelve stories have been my guides throughout the stages of my writing life, beginning from when I first started studying short fiction as an undergraduate to my time in Columbia’s MFA program and my eight years of working as an editor of the literary annual NOON. They have made an indelible impression on me, and I’ve returned to them so often that I think of them as part of my writerly DNA. I teach them now to my own students. If they have anything else in common, it is, I think, what I look for when I read fiction: intimacy with a mind and a voice, the charge of lived or felt experience, a sense of skin in the game. They each contain a truth that only that particular writer could reveal. Looking at them altogether, I see now that they are essentially stories, in one way or another, about family, and how we are shaped by who we love.

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