Neighbors and Other Stories
A bold and haunting debut story collection that follows various characters as they navigate the day-to-day perils of Jim Crow racism from Diane Oliver, a missing figure in the canon of twentieth-century African American literature, with an introduction by Tayari Jones
A remarkable talent far ahead of her time, Diane Oliver died in 1966 at the age of 22, leaving behind these crisply told and often chilling tales that explore race and racism in 1950s and 60s America. In this first and only collection by a masterful storyteller finally taking her rightful place in the canon, Oliver's insightful stories reverberate into the present day.
There's the nightmarish "The Closet on the Top Floor" in which Winifred, the first Black student at her newly integrated college, starts to physically disappear; "Mint Juleps not Served Here" where a couple living deep in a forest with their son go to bloody lengths to protect him; "Spiders Cry without Tears," in which a couple, Meg and Walt, are confronted by prejudices and strains of interracial and extramarital love; and the high tension titular story that follows a nervous older sister the night before her little brother is set to desegregate his school.
These are incisive and intimate portraits of African American families in everyday moments of anxiety and crisis that look at how they use agency to navigate their predicaments. As much a social and historical document as it is a taut, engrossing collection, Neighbors is an exceptional literary feat from a crucial once-lost figure of letters.
About the Author
Diane Oliver was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and after graduating from high school, she attended Women's College (which later became the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and was the Managing Editor of The Carolinian, the student newspaper. She published four short stories in her lifetime and three more posthumously: 'Key to the City' and 'Neighbors' published in The Sewanee Review in 1966; 'Health Service', 'Traffic Jam' and 'Mint Juleps Not Served Here' published in Negro Digest in 1965, 1966 and 1967 respectively; 'The Closet on the Top Floor' published in Southern Writing in the Sixties in 1966; and '"No Brown Sugar in Anybody's Milk"' published in The Paris Review in 2023. 'Neighbors' was a recipient of an O. Henry Award in 1967. Diane began graduate work at the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop and was awarded the MFA degree posthumously days after her death, at the age of 22, in a motorcycle accident in 1966.