The Best That You Can Do


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9781593767587 | Paperback 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | 240 pages Buy it Now

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Book Description

Winner of the 2023 Soft Skull-Kimbilio Publishing Prize, a collection of short stories that elaborate the realities of a diasporic existence, split identities, and the beautiful potency of meaningful connections

Primarily told from the perspective of women and children in the Northeast who are tethered to fathers and families in Puerto Rico, these stories explore the cultural confusion of being one person in two places—of having a mother who wants your father and his language to stay on his island but sends you there because you need to know your family. Loudly and joyfully filled with Cousins, Aunts, Grandparents, and budding romances, these stories are saturated in summer nostalgia, and place readers at the center of the table to enjoy family traditions and holidays: the resplendent and universal language of survival for displaced or broken families.

Refusing to shy away from dysfunction, loss, obligation, or interrogating Black and Latinx heritages “If we flip the channels fast enough, we can turn almost anyone Puerto Rican, blurring black and white into Boricua.” Gautier’s stories feature New York neighborhoods made of island nations living with seasonal and perpetual displacement. Like Justin Torres’ We the Animals, or Quiara Alegria Hudes’ My Broken Language, it’s the characters-in-becoming—flanked by family and rich with detail—that animate each story with special frequencies, especially for readers grappling split-identities themselves.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Ms., A Must-Read Book
, A Best Book of the Month
The Orange County Register, A 2024 Highly Anticipated Book
Chicago Review of Books, A Most Anticipated Title

"There is a new lyricism in the writing here, and each fiction feels intensely personal, inviting the reader to linger over lines and images. The rest is that we are regularly taken by surprise not only by the circumstances of the plot, but also by the incandescence of the prose. The Best That You Can Do is one of our most important writers working at the height of her powers." —Jeffrey Condran, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Joyful, nostalgic, and intimate.” —Sophia June, Nylon

"Gautier's prizewinning short-story collection reflects the acrobatic range of a writer who has made the form her own, seamlessly integrating social commentary into her storytelling." —Marion Wink, Oprah Daily

"In her kaleidoscopic collection, Gautier gathers very brief stories—some just two pages, regarded perhaps as 'micro' or 'flash' fiction—that showcase her protean talents . . . Through the prism of Puerto Rican and Black kids and their mothers, Gautier captures their struggles against dislocation, discrimination, violence and the quotidian parts of life with her distinctive wit, style and wisdom." —Elizabeth Taylor, The National Book Review

“Winner of the 2023 Soft Skull-Kimbilio Publishing Prize Amina Gautier brings an incredible attention to the interior lives of her characters; her work is consistently filled with moments of nostalgia and discontent, as she refuses to shy away from the problems of individual and collective displacement.” —Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books

"Dr. Amina Gautier’s short story collection, The Best That You Can Do, refuses to be fixed in place, dancing across shores and between decades as a luminous chorus of speakers breaks into singular voices that carry readers from New England to Puerto Rico, Chicago and beyond, searching for answers to questions of race, identity, and belonging . . . The stories are compact and muscular, arranged like music, and brimming with voices that shift and quake on the page." — Stephen Patrick Bell, Electric Literature

"Impressive . . . Racism, family squabbles, the dating scene, the immigrant experience: life offers plenty of obstacles that the protagonists in this memorable assortment navigate with dignity." —Michael Magras, Shelf Awareness

"Powerful . . . Gautier’s flashes of familial angst and political commentary ignite each entry. This packs a stinging punch." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Gautier’s stories pry open characters’ inner motives and the effects of displacements with precision and compassion." —Leah Strauss, Booklist

"Gautier has a real gift for finding dignity and bravery in the lives of ordinary women." —Kirkus Reviews

"The Best That You Can Do is another triumph for Amina Gautier. These stories show off the enormous range and versatility we fans have come to expect. In recent years Gautier has been performing ever greater feats of compression and distillation. In her hands, the microfiction or short-short is a jewel box to show off the scintillations of 'ordinary' experience, especially childhood experience. This is the luminous everyday, and Gautier's talent is incandescent." —Michael Griffith, author of Bibliophilia and Trophy

“Amina Gautier’s The Best That You Can Do adds even more luster to her award-winning artistry. Sharp emotional focus offsets the blur afflicting people who ‘wisp into memory’ and jump from Puerto Rico to Bed Stuy to Lisbon to Chicago. The threat to Black lives staggers the souls of characters—and of readers. ‘Tears on Tap’ is a masterpiece, and the touching final stories blend with kaleidoscopic power, where intense love can rupture by the next page. But old lovers also seek one another out for a last gaze before they go blind, and the jewel-like ‘Slip’ offers a dazzling response to the pain of loss and solitude." —Katherine Vaz, author of Above the Salt, Mariana, Fado & Other Stories and Our Lady of the Artichokes