Clare Beams, We Show What We Have Learned

“Clare Beams has written 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, author of The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age

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.

Clare Beams is the author of the story collection We Show What We Have Learned. Her stories appear in One Story, n+1, EcotoneThe Common, the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and have received special mention inThe Best American Short Stories 2013 and The Pushcart Prize XXXV. She is the recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and currently blogs forPloughshares. After teaching high school English for six years in Falmouth, Massachusetts, she moved with her husband and daughter to Pittsburgh, where she teaches creative writing at Saint Vincent College and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.