Clare Beam’s We Show What We Have Learned
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. (from the publisher)
Why we are reading Beam’s We Show What We Have Learned
A few years ago, Lookout Books — along with Co-founder and Publisher Emily Smith and Editor Beth Staples—served as my biggest inspiration to go back into the book business as an agent. The Lookout team made my passion for publishing seem tangible again and their enthusiasm for important writing is contagious. What Lookout is doing, offering “a haven for books that matter” is abundantly clear with every title they publish and their most recent outing matters a lot!
We Show What We Have Learned transcends pen-to-paper storytelling as Clare Beam’s characters start inhabiting the reader’s mind and soul. I felt everyday choices being pulled into question while reading this book and kept longing to inhabit the fantastical worlds that Beam creates. Not since Kelly Link have I by been so moved, troubled, and delighted by short stories.
Critical Praise for Clare Beam’s We Show What We Have Learned
“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, The Lost Landscape
“A richly imagined and impeccably crafted debut.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“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.”