Selected Shorts: True Selves/Hidden Selves

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Guest host BD Wong introduces three stories about identity.

First, Karen Russell’s “Reeling for the Empire,”an eerie take on the issue of exploited workers.  It is set during the Meiji era in Japan, when the country began to absorb Western industrial practices.  It is a tale of transmogrification, but also of self-discovery.  In the interview with Juno Diaz below, Russell discusses her story, commenting,   “The real core for me was, does regret ever have utility? Can you use regret to tell a new kind of story? 

Russell is the author of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and the novel, Swamplandia!  Her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, Conjunctions, Granta, The New Yorker, and Zoetrope.  

“Reeling for the Empire” is from Russell’s celebrated new collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove. It is read by Kaneza Schall, who has performed with Elevator Repair Service and the Wooster Group.

In the second story on this program, Ben Loory’s “The Dodo,” the protagonist knows exactly who he is, even if no one believes him. Reader Andre Holland’s stage credits include “Blue Door,” “Wig Out,” and “The Whipping Man.”  He is currently starring in television comedy “1600 Penn.”

In the first two stories on this program, the main characters discover and reveal their true selves, but in Deborah Willis’s provocative tale “The Secretary,” an executive is strangely drawn to his glamorous but elusive assistant, who reveals nothing of herself.

Canadian-born Willis's work has appeared in the Bridport Prize Anthology, Event, and Grain, and she was a winner of PRISM International's annual fiction prize. She is the author of the collection, Vanishing and Other Stories, which was published by Harper Perennial and nominated for a Governor General's Award.  She currently works as a bookseller in Victoria, Canada.

Reader Arian Moayed received a Theater World Award and was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk awards for his portrayal of Musa in “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”  He is a co-founder and artistic director of the experimental theatre company Waterwell.

“Reeling for the Empire,” Karen Russell, performed by Kaneza Schall

“The Dodo,” by Ben Loory, performed by Andre Holland

“The Secretary,” by Deborah Willis, performed by Arian Moayed

The SELECTED SHORTS theme is David Peterson's “That's the Deal,” performed by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit

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 And for more thoughts on the stories in SHORTS, check out literary commentator Hannah Tinti’s site at