praise for 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

“Even when the stories draw from the tradition of fabulism, they always feel wholly Beams’s own, from the unflagging elegance of the prose to the wisdom with which Beams approaches the complex emotional terrain her characters navigate. . . . It is this gap between what the world seems and what is that Beams tackles so memorably in this collection. . . . A richly imagined and impeccably crafted debut.”
Kirkus (starred review), Best Debut Fiction of 2016

“Stories as well executed as these are their own reward, but it’s also clear from the capaciousness on display here that Ms. Beams has novels’ worth of worlds inside her.”
New York Times

“This debut collection is full of promise and surreal delight. In the shocking title tale, a teacher falls to pieces in front of her class, not emotionally or metaphorically, but literally. We hope there’s much more to come from this writer.”
O, The Oprah Magazine, 10 Titles to Pick Up Now, November 2016

“Beams entire collection bewitches—and features complex female characters and feminist takes on broader themes to boot. A sharp eye for detail and an appreciation for emotional nuance underpin Beams’ ability to captivate readers, even as she eschews neat endings in favor of mysteries that linger into discomfort.”

“A collection of quiet and unnerving stories where everything is just slightly off-kilter, where the world feels just a little wrong. A teenaged boy becomes infatuated with an older woman at the fraudulent health spa run by his mother; a WWII-era bride grows frantic when her groom insists she make her wedding dress out of the parachute that saved his life. These stories are angry and odd, and I loved them.”
—Amanda Nelson, Book Riot

“Beams is an expert at providing odd and surprising details that make her stories come alive, and the result is a powerful collection about what we need from others and, in turn, what we can offer others of ourselves.”
Publishers Weekly

“Beams’s stories, a cross between Aimee Bender’s and Karen Russell’s, are set in dreamy otherworldly places that are almost recognizable—but not quite. By making her metaphors literal, Beams creates magical-realist pieces that often calculate the high cost of being a woman.”
The Rumpus

“Many [stories] take place in dreamy worlds where animalistic shadows hold the promise of renewal, or buildings mysteriously heal themselves. Within these boundaries, each story focuses a brilliant shaft of light on one person’s emotions as they reveal insecurities and secret longings, resulting in vulnerability and intimacy.”

“There’s a feeling of anarchic possibility in Beams’ work that is both delightful and unsettling. If you like Kelly Link and Karen Russell, you’ll love Clare Beams. . . . This was the quality that not only kept me reading, but made We Show What We Have Learned impossible to put down: in every story, I recognized some shade of myself. . . . Beams’ stories have a laser-focused honesty that reminds you of the pieces of yourself you’d rather not look at—the conformist, the manipulator, the egotist—yet her work is also profoundly generous, circling back again and again to the tremendous need that makes us behave in ways that are less than noble.”
Fiction Writers Review

“Imaginative, unsettling, and relentlessly sharp, the nine stories of the book are full of immersive detail and fully realized narrators that give believability to the fantastic.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Beams’s collection skillfully and alluringly navigates the border between the familiar and the unexpected, and beguiles and unsettles in equal measure.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Like [Shirley] Jackson, Beams’s stories are eerie and precise. Like [Alice] Munro, each one hinges on a subtle truth, each uncovering some mystery of humanity, each story a revelation.”

We Show What We Have Learned is fun, entertaining stuff. This evidence suggests that Beams is likely to grow into a very powerful writer.”
Wilmington Star News

“The collection is so adept, it is startling to learn that this is the author’s debut.”

“Stunning and brilliant. Clare Beams has a gift for illuminating one character’s most private moment, causing the impact to transform the fates of many. She navigates the tightrope between inner and outer reality. The range of her stories is astonishing—funny and devastating, suspenseful and mesmerizing.”
—Ursula Hegi, author of Stones from the River

“Clare Beams’s invigorating stories are brave, inventive, lyrical, and just a little bit nasty. Read them now.”
—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Fun Parts

“These amazingly inventive stories reveal an imagination rare in its command and courage. In gorgeous prose that thrills, instructs, and thoroughly inspires, Clare Beams obliterates the ‘dividing line between possibilities and impossibilities,’ showing how our passions can rule with reality-bending magic.”
—Chang-rae Lee, author of On Such a Full Sea

“An elegant and assured debut, packed with confident prose—and stories with novel-like wholeness in the way of Munro and Cheever. The stories are imaginative and flecked with darkness and subtle societal commentary in the manner of Margaret Atwood; the characters are complex and rendered with psychological acuity. Smart, savage, and compulsively readable.”
Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women

“These stories are at once spooky and lush, eerie and deeply felt, ghostly but also vibrantly alive. Clare Beams is a magician, and each of these stories is a muscular, artful haunting.”
—Caitlin Horrocks, author of This Is Not Your City

“The stories in We Show What We Have Learned skew from the historic to the fantastic, but at their heart is Clare Beams’s uncanny eye. Whether she’s depicting a plague doctor, school teacher, or a bride in a World War II parachute wedding gown, Beams’s characters are as complex as the situations they navigate. A writer of assured talent, Beams’s debut proves her place in the pantheon of modern short story writers.”
Rachel Richardson, Hub City Bookshop

“This short story collection is gripping, creepy, gorgeous and hypnotic. I have been reading this collection before I go to sleep and her stunning surreal depictions have seeped into my dreams. A dedicated student in a curious prep school transforms into a lady with a repercussive pace as horrifyingly implicit as Kafka’s Metamorphosis. An architect’s plans inspire and devastate. A grandmother follows shadowy slithers in the forests of her childhood and someone’s beauty is being stolen. Beams has stolen my heart with these stories and I cannot wait for this book to hit the shelves!”
Raquel Barrientos, Newtonville Books for Literary Hub’s The Great Booksellers Fall 2016 Preview

“Imagine two great masters of the short story, one realistic and one a bit surreal, but both with a sly sense of humor and a feminist heart, had a book baby. Let’s say . . . Margaret Atwood and Megan Mayhew Bergman? Then they had to go somewhere for an hour or two, so they let Stephen King babysit the book baby. (Not for too long—not enough to really warp the book baby, just enough to fill the book baby’s head with some crazy-dark ideas.) That book baby would grow up to be We Show What We Have Learned, and you’d want to marry it. This is a terrible analogy featuring anthropomorphized books, but you get what I mean: Beams’s collection brings to mind some of the greatest and most imaginative contemporary literature yet is wholly original.”
Mary Laura Philpott, Parnassus Books