Full Texts of Classic Works

“Violets” – a short story by Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875 – 1935) was a poet, short story writer, essayist, and journalist often associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Violets and Other Tales (1895), her first collection, combined poetry and prose in the same volume. “Violets,” the story that opens the book, is presented here in full. 

Published when she was just twenty years old and going by her original name of Alice Ruth Moore, Violets and Other Tales includes short stories interspersed with the poems. This early work hints at feminism and social justice, predicting of the types of themes that would become her hallmark.

Her mixed heritage of Black, Creole, European, and Native American gave her a broad perspective on race. She explored racial issues in tandem with the varied and complex issues faced by women of color.

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“A Pair of Silk Stockings” – a 1897 short story by Kate Chopin

Presented here is the full text of “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” a short story by Kate Chopin published in 1897 in Vogue magazine. The story follows Mrs. Sommers, a young mother, who decided to spend an unexpected windfall of fifteen dollars on herself, rather than on her children.

Kate Chopin liked contributing to Vogue because she believed that the magazine was uncharacteristically “fearless and truthful” for in its depiction of women’s lives. in that era. This story has been reprinted in later collections of Kate Chopin’s short works.

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“Sweat” – a 1926 short story by Zora Neale Hurston (full text)

Originally published in 1926, Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, “Sweat,” is nuanced and eloquently compact. Hurston maximizes each word, object, character, and plot point to create an impassioned and enlightening narrative.

Within this small space, Hurston addresses a number of themes, such as the trials of femininity, which she explores with compelling and efficient symbolism.

In her introduction to the 1997 anthology entirely devoted to the story (“Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston), editor Cheryl A. Wall wrote: Read More→

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John Redding Goes to Sea by Zora Neale Hurston (1921)

Presented here is the full text of “John Redding Goes to Sea,” the first story by Zora Neale Hurston to be published.

Launching what would become her typical style, with characters speaking in dialect, the story was first published in the May, 1921 issue of Stylus, Howard University’s literary magazine. A slightly edited version in the January, 1926, issue of Opportunity, a prominent literary journal associated with the Harlem Renaissance

More recently, the story is included in Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (2020) a collection of Zora’s rediscovered short stories. Read More→

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Xingu — a Short Story by Edith Wharton (1916; full text)

Xingu by Edith Wharton (1862 – 1937), a longform short story, satirizes a snobby ladies’ literary lunch group in the early 1900s. It was first published in Xingu and Other Stories (1916) and is a fairly rare occasion in which Wharton’s sly sense of humor is on display.

The six pretentious, competitive women invite a famous author as a guest to visit their group, with unexpected results. Whereas the guests assume that the author is there to discuss her latest novel, she insists on only discussing another work — Xingu.

The ladies of the group feign knowing the work and insist they’ve studied it — but did they really? Xingu, reprinted in full here, is in the public domain. Long paragraphs have been broken up for easier viewability on devices. 

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