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We Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories

Winner of the Bard Fiction Prize and a finalist for the PEN/Bingham Prize, Young Lions Fiction Award, and Shirley Jackson Awards

Joyce Carol Oates calls this debut author “wickedly sharp-eyed, wholly unpredictable . . . a female/feminist voice for the twenty-first century.”



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.

Download reading guide ISBN: 9781940596143
Price: $17.95
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Pages: 182
Format: Trade paper with French flaps
Story collection


“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



“A richly imagined and impeccably crafted debut . . . from the unflagging elegance of the prose to the wisdom with which Beams approaches the complex emotional terrain her characters navigate.”

Kirkus (starred review), Best Debut Fiction of 2016



“Beams’s 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’s ability to captivate readers, even as she eschews neat endings in favor of mysteries that linger into discomfort.”




“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


About the Author

Clare Beams’s story collection, We Show What We Have Learned, was a Kirkus Best Debut of 2016; was longlisted for the Story Prize; and was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award. Her fiction appears in One Story, n+1, Ecotone, the Common, the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and the Best American Nonrequired Reading, and has received special mention in the Best American Short Stories 2013 and the Pushcart Prize XXXV. She was a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, and the 2014 Bernard O’Keefe scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

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