Short Story Sunday: Graceful Burdens by Roxane Gay
Series: Out of Line
Author: Roxane Gay
Narrator: Samira Wiley
Published: September 1, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Read: June 8, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
From New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay comes an unforgettable tale of nightmarish bureaucracy in which genetic profiling has redefined the “unfit mother.”
A trip to the library prompts one woman to question her fate in this galvanizing short story. For a woman like Hadley, deemed not acceptable to procreate, there’s only one recourse. Unlicensed for motherhood, she can alleviate her grief and frustration at a “baby library,” where a curiously endless supply of infants is available for a two-week loan. But the borrowed life that serves as a temporary balm leads to a journey of self-discovery that will forever change the direction of Hadley’s future.
Roxane Gay’s Graceful Burdens is part of Out of Line, an incisive collection of funny, enraging, and hopeful stories of women’s empowerment and escape. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.
This story takes place in a dystopian world where women are evaluated to determine whether or not they will be permitted to have children. They undergo testing at age 16 to see if they will be allowed to procreate. We see both sides of this world through Hadley who is unlicensed to have children and Seraphina who is licensed.
There are libraries in this world where only women can ‘borrow’ a child for up to two weeks. These children are no longer ‘borrowable’ once they hit three years old. Hadley checks out a baby girl as only girls can be ‘borrowed’. We also see Seraphina who has children but doesn’t really want them. It still seems like the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ even in this dystopian world.
I can’t say much more than this because it would give away what happens in the short story. There is much more that could be done with this story: It is another one I would like to see expanded because of the direction it goes in. It is an intriguing story that also makes you think.