Read We Are Taking Only What We Need by Stephanie Powell Watts Online


Fiction. African American Studies. African American women protagonists lose and find love, confront sanity and craziness, and strive to make sense of their lives in North Carolina. A Jehovah's Witness girl goes door-to-door with an expert field-service partner from up north. At a call center, operator Sheila fields a caller's uncomfortable questions under a ruthless supervFiction. African American Studies. African American women protagonists lose and find love, confront sanity and craziness, and strive to make sense of their lives in North Carolina. A Jehovah's Witness girl goes door-to-door with an expert field-service partner from up north. At a call center, operator Sheila fields a caller's uncomfortable questions under a ruthless supervisor's eye. Forty-something Aunt Ginny surprises the family by finding a husband, but soon she gives them more to talk about. Pulitzer-Prize winner Edward P. Jones writes "Watts offers an impressive debut that promises only wonderful work to come." Fiction writer Marly Swick agrees: "Each story seems, at the same time, to be a breath of fresh air and an instant classic." Author Alyce Miller notes that "Watts writes with a penetrating eye for the extraordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people. As I read, I found myself holding my breath."...

Title : We Are Taking Only What We Need
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781886157798
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 221 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

We Are Taking Only What We Need Reviews

  • Beverly
    2019-03-12 05:39

    My thoughts:• I am not a big fan of short stories but have been learning how to appreciate a good short story collection and for me this works best if I read one short story per day until I finish the collection. This way I get a chance to reflect on each story and ponder on the author’s writing style.• I was interested in reading this collection not only because it won the Ernest J Gaines Award for Literary Excellence but also because the stories were set in rural NC towns and was interested in reading stories that would reflect African American black sensibilities of living in the rural south.• This is a collection of gritty stories written in an unsentimental manner communicating the intimate emotions of life in rural North Carolina for African American women. The stories that expressed the lives of Jehovah Witnesses in a rural setting were the most poignant for me.• Great sense of place and time. “My writing has always been about trying to give voice to individuals who aren’t heard in our culture: the poor, African-American dirt-roaders that are my people,” Watts said. “In that sense, this award isn’t just for me, but for the communities I came from. I’m proud of that -- and I’m proud of them. Literature belongs to everyone.” This is a quote from the author and she definitely achieved her goal in this collection.• I do not expect to like all of the stories in a collection equally but got a little concerned as the first story was my least favorite but by the end of the second story – I settled into the author’s elegant writing style and was captivated by the characters she so carefully constructed and place me within their world.• Stephanie Powell Watts is definitely an author to watch as she writes of a people who are often not the main subject in southern literature – African American women in the current times of the rural south as they maneuver through their place in this world.

  • Dale Jr.
    2019-03-23 08:30

    Scranton was in for a storm. An intense one, by all reports. The skies darkened their ugly, menacing grays and blacks. The rain fell at angles in sheets while trees bent against the wind, their leaves flipping up and down flashing shades of dark then light green.Then, as soon as it began, it was over. There were no tornadoes. No fallen trees. The power hadn't even gone out. Just flickered a few times like a hiccup. The ravaging storm that the weathermen had predicted turned into a temper tantrum. It came close, but fell just a bit short.Out I ventured. After learning of the planned open mic cancellation, I made my way to the Radisson hotel where author Stephanie Powell Watts was to read for a Pages and Places event. One Jack-and-Coke, a comfortable chair, and a few moments later, Watts took her place at the podium.Watts read the first in her debut collection of short stories We Are Taking Only What We Need titled "Family Museum of the Ancient Postcards". Despite the chilly room and the minor microphone problems, Watts managed to engage the crowd with a great reading. Afterwards, she spoke a bit about her writing process and the completion of the collection.Watts takes time to develop her stories and the characters within. She commented, during her reading, that "Family Museum of the Ancient Postcards", a 23-page story, took almost three years to finalize. Her process of writing is slow, by her accounts, and it's reflected within these stories in a good way. There's thought here. There's a carefully crafted image. Southern writer. It's a title, as Watts explains, she tries not to think about while writing. It is a title for publishers, librarians, and people like me to use when describing her work. Southern writer is a title that fits, but only superficially. Her writing goes beyond the borders of the Mason-Dixon line.This debut collection was a PEN Hemingway Award finalist and contains the short "Unassigned Territory" which won the Pushcart Prize. Many of the stories have been featured in well-known short story anthologies. And it's no wonder why.The stories contained within We Are Taking Only What We Need focus on a rural setting that is most certainly intimately familiar to Watts. Criss-crossing, dusty back roads dotted by houses every few miles. The hardened lives and the people who live them. These stories focus on the lost and found. Not material, but mental and emotional.Like the storm that threatened Scranton, though, there are a few things that make We Are Taking Only What We Need fall just short of what it could have been. However, I don't believe it's much of Watts's fault as it is poor editing.Throughout the book there are errors. Glaringly obvious errors that should have never made it past an editor. Anyone who reads knows that an awkward phrase, misspelled word, or errant punctuation can completely pull you from a story. I know it does for me. It's a shame that, because of a lackluster editor, an author's work should suffer, but it does.I also feel that a truly good editor, or publisher, would have ordered the stories differently. This, I noticed, with the first two shorts. Both began with a character just being released from jail. It's not a bad thing to start multiple stories in a similar fashion or with similar events, but to place them one after the other in such a small collection of shorts becomes detrimental, in my opinion. It can make the writing seem redundant even when it's not the case.Maybe it's just me, but I seem to be finding slack editing in contemporary publications more and more. Maybe it's a sign of the times. Whatever it is, I hope it stops. I hope editors begin taking their jobs seriously and realizing just how important they are when it comes to a final product.Despite the editing problems, We Are Taking Only What We Need is an incredible read. Watts writes with beautiful description. I can see the snaking dirt roads and taste the dust. I can feel these characters' emotions. The tension and moments of clarity. Watts has a tendency, in these stories, to bring you from a wide, breathtaking view of your surroundings and focus you in tighter and tighter until the very end where she opens the chest of her characters and lets their entire being pour out.Pick it up and read it. My hopes, for this particular collection, are for better editing in a second printing. Fix the errors. Order the stories a bit better. But, until then, you'll have to read this version. And it's worth it.

  • Robert
    2019-03-11 09:32

    We Are Taking Only What We Need, a collection of stories by Stephanie Powell Watts, has a thread running through it that goes something like this: an African-American, intelligent, observant, depressed dirt-road country girl in North Carolina struggles every day, in every situation, to make sense of her feelings, her relatives, and her lack of a clear future, whether it involves a man, a job, or God.In the best story, “There Can Never Be Another Me,” that girl is pushed aside by an older man’s continuing attraction to the wife he’s always leaving. The wife he’s always leaving, of course, is the basic girl grown older, angrier, and still as confused as ever about why men are necessary, or so damned persistent.Watts’ setting, character and themes make me think of a white female writer who grew up in Georgia: Flannery O’Connor. What Watts lacks that O’Connor possessed, it seems to me, is a tight, explosive sense of story wrapped up in the fundamentally tragicomic wickedness of people--their vanity and greed above all.Some of these stories are so socially fuzzy (who is related to whom? who is sleeping with whom?) that it’s a challenge for the reader to keep the narrative straight. Others are richer in the middle than in the end, when the fundamental girl just has to give up and yield to uncertainty.The collection has several strengths: a consistent, well-controlled prose style full of vivid details; a great instinct for titles (“If You Hit Randolph County, You’ve Gone Too Far;” “Family Museum of the Ancient Postcards”); and a commitment to bringing the South’s backwoods African-American trailer-folk to the fore. Here we have prison visits, mental institution visits, and painfully accurate portrayals of people who fear they have passed the entire day not being seen.

  • Andre
    2019-03-12 05:39

    This book was originally published in 2011 and is being relaunched in February to take advantage of her paperback release of No One Is Coming To Save Us. A collection of ten stories that maintain a consistent thread of country southern poor Black women and their quotidian lives. Her prose is fetching yet regular and these tales are mostly entertaining. The standout for me was 'Highway 18.'In that story of a young Jehovah's Witness girl out with her seasoned partner, they encounter a lady who wants to gossip about Shelby, a known prostitute about town that the young JW had some affinity for, although she wasn't sure why after only one brief meeting and chat with her. "I was embarrassed that Shelby was so important to me. And lately, when I catch myself thinking about her, wishing for her to appear, I am just ashamed. The same vile feeling as if someone smacked a nasty word in my direction that I pretended I didn’t hear."Stephanie Powell Watts knitted this story so exceptionally, it was coated with the unwritten and yet gives the reader a sense of completeness which is often difficult to pull off in short stories but her success here is indicative of her writing prowess. This talent comes through in all the stories but some felt incomplete and shallow. All in all, I would recommend it for those who like short stories and have an interest in the collective Black lives being led in the south. Thanks to Ecco Press and Edelweiss for an advanced ebook. The book publishes February 6, 2018

  • Audra
    2019-03-06 01:34

    I have been reading a lot of short stories because I am in the midst of writing and submitting a lot of them. With each book I read, I read the blurbs about the authors to try and get a small sense of who they are and see how their experiences shape their writing, good or bad. We Are Taking Only What We Need is a series of short stories about the mundane things of life: teenage angst, religion, and relationships. The stories were well-written (mostly, spelling errors aside), but I found them really lacking "oomph." It was kind of like sitting on a porch listening to someone talk about the same old problems over and over without wanting to do anything to change their situation.I hate to give bad reviews. As a pre-published author I know how much a writer puts of him or herself into their stories. But I found myself ready to be done with this book. I am still going to read her other book "No One Is Coming To Save Us" because I want to like her writing, I really do.

  • Kate
    2019-03-08 04:56

    While the story quality is a bit uneven, there's enough gems here to make it worth the read. The writing is good, the truth in the author's words are undeniable, but some of the stories meander too much or end too abruptly. The main characters of most of the short stories feel like versions of the same girl, but I liked that, it felt like a connection tying the stories together.

  • Columbus
    2019-03-13 05:47

    What a fantastic writer and storyteller. I really wanted to give this book a higher rating but the editing here is really poor. Some books can overcome it and some cannot. Hopefully, Watts sophomore effort will correct that problem.

  • erin
    2019-02-28 08:40

    whoever copy edited this book does not know where to hyphenate "y'all" and it bothered me incredibly much.

  • Kimberley
    2019-03-12 08:48

    I received an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of We Are Taking Only What We Need: Stories by Stephanie Powell Watts via Edelweiss+.
Ten stories about everyday people dealing with the intense emotions that come with death, divorce, change, betrayal, religion, and love. Nothing about any one of these stories is altogether phenomenal, but the beauty is in their simplicity. Their brutal realness.
The ones that stood out the most, at least for me, were Do You Remember the Summer of Love and Black Power. 
The former is about awoman whose recently left her husband, after discovering he's been seeing (and presumably fallen in love with a man); she's struggling to figure out who she is in a world where her reality consists of a man who likely never loved her, and a life where she centered all she aaa around that love. The realization that she settled for a life, that turned out to be such a lie, has made her wonder if she can even trust herself anymore.The dialogue she has within herself, as well as with her unwitting (and a touch creepy) companion, speaks volumes as to how difficult it can be to fix yourself once you've discovered you're broken.
The latter is much the same, only the woman in that particular story has already decided that settling is as good an option as any, given her choices; she dreams of something better being on the other side, but she hasn’t the motivation to seek it out. Each story offers the opportunity to reflect and discuss the thought process a woman goes through when making a decision about her happiness. You get a feel for just how hopeless and trapped one can feel when life doesn't seem to be playing fair—which is often the case.

  • Victor
    2019-03-17 06:35

    A tremendous collection and excellent addition to the great Art of the Story series. It’s rare for a collection to be this uniformly strong—even collections we think of as classics tend to have throwaways—but sure enough, each of these stands on their own legs and brings together the overarching themes of race, class, rural life, and religion (a number of stories feature protagonists who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is a perspective rarely seen in literature).

  • Lynette Fullerton
    2019-03-09 02:37

    This was a good collection, though I should learn to trust myself when my gut reaction tells me to skip something. The story "We Are Taking Only What We Need" is a punch to the gut. Anyone with triggers involving animal cruelty should avoid this story. The last story, "There Will Never Be Another Me" must have been the starting point for "No One Is Coming to Save Us," or at least a story line she liked so much that she used it again. "Highway 18" will break your heart.

  • Brittany
    2019-02-24 05:53

    Absolutely spectacular and moving short story collection about Southern women of color who are simply seeking happiness and power in their everyday lives.

  • Stephanie Cohen
    2019-03-14 07:38

    interesting and different

  • Dave
    2019-03-04 08:45

    This is a solid debut overall, with the book's strength in the author's stand-in living a pretty varied life within a small geographic space near where I grew up in NC. "Welcome to the City of Dreams" is the top story, detailing a woman leaving her husband for another man and the big city of Raleigh, two children in tow, from the perspective of the daughter. There are pretty strong tales of working as a Jehovah's Witness, a call center rep, and a fast food server, as well as a family member to an ex-con. Watts missteps in that she brings up race in every. single. story., detracting from the narrative without purpose. Still, the dialogue flows, the characters are well-drawn, and 8 of the 10 stories are interesting.

  • Jessica Boone
    2019-02-23 02:31

    Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Worth reading.

  • b bb bbbb bbbbbbbb
    2019-03-19 06:54

    There were a couple stories in this collection which I loved for their poise, wisdom, heart and great delivery. Hopefully Watts will publish more in the future. There were also a handful of stories with characters lacking a sense of agency and badly in need of editing. The decision to open the collection with one of the most halting and awkward of them is a peculiar choice. Anyhow, it's easily worth a read even if just for the ones which work well.

  • Becqui
    2019-03-12 07:35

    A compilation of short stories by an amazing, brilliant woman with a fabulous personality. I met her and her husband Bob Watts at a Literary Lecture at Western Carolina. The stories revolve around poor, young Black children in rural North Carolina, facing adversity of one kind or another. Her descriptions of the normal daily lives of her characters are heartfelt and tragic.

  • Marie
    2019-03-22 04:37

    Engrossing and lyrical collection of stories. The author brings you powerfully into her characters' sadness and painful desperation, trapped within ordinary days. A random plus, the book afforded a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Jehovah's Witness door-to-door preachers.

  • Linda
    2019-03-02 05:27

    Wonderfully written, precisely detailed stories of growing up in the South as an African American Jehovah's Witness. Wry humor and vivid characters bring these stories to life on the page. I expect to see this author hitting big success with a book quite soon.

  • Jamie
    2019-03-26 02:39

    I really wanted to like it, and I did, at times, but I felt the stories were a bit repetitive or just lacking in that je ne sais quoi (and there were a lot of distracting typos). There is definitely something there, and SPW shows promise.

  • Michelle
    2019-02-23 01:50

    Loved, loved, loved this book of short stories. So much happens in each story. Its so much southern heartbreak and goodness. Will be sending this book out to a few people I think will love it.

  • Amanda Nan Dillon
    2019-03-06 02:27

    The author's life really plays into all of her stories. I love that.

  • Joe
    2019-02-28 03:36

    Stories narrated from a female

  • Rosemary Peek
    2019-03-09 01:28

    This author has a reading/signing event at City Lights Books in Sylva, NC 8/2 at 6:30pm

  • Ali
    2019-03-01 07:40

    "these dogs don't bother to bond with us, but stuck out their paws not to shake hands but so we could slit their wrists and get it the hell over with."

  • Pat
    2019-03-12 04:55

    A gritty, realistic collection of well written stories.

  • Deborah
    2019-03-25 05:47

    Short stories. Well-done, but I was unable to follow plot lines or gain any understanding of the characters.