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Cover for The World Doesn't Work That Way, but It Could

The World Doesn't Work That Way, but It Could


Yxta Maya Murray


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One of the Best Books of 2020, Buzzfeed News

The Millions' Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half of 2020 Book Preview

The gripping, thought-provoking stories in Yxta Maya Murray’s latest collection find their inspiration in the headlines. Here, ordinary people negotiate tentative paths through wildfire, mass shootings, bureaucratic incompetence, and heedless government policies with vicious impacts on the innocent and helpless. A nurse volunteers to serve in catastrophe-stricken Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and discovers that her skill and compassion are useless in the face of stubborn governmental inertia. An Environmental Protection Agency employee, whose agricultural-worker parents died after long exposure to a deadly pesticide, finds herself forced to find justifications for reversing regulations that had earlier banned the chemical. A Department of Education employee in a dystopic future America visits a highly praised charter school and discovers the horrific consequences of academic failure. A transgender trainer of beauty pageant contestants takes on a beautiful Latina for the Miss USA pageant and brings her to perfection and the brink of victory, only to discover that she has a fatal secret.

The characters in these stories grapple with the consequences of frightening attitudes and policies pervasive in the United States today. The stories explore not only our distressing human capacity for moral numbness in the face of evil, but also reveal our surprising stores of compassion and forgiveness. These brilliantly conceived and beautifully written stories are troubling yet irresistible mirrors of our time.

Praise For The World Doesn't Work That Way, but It Could: Stories

It is also a force of nature…. Murray’s writing honestly and directly exposes ongoing human behaviors we rarely talk about.
Story Circle Book Reviews

...fearless and revelatory.... It is absolutely essential reading.
— Buzzfeed

Stories of life and bureaucracy intertwine in the wake of historic disasters, from the western wildfires to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Murray’s stories feature the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, and the lives of regular people caught up in the all-too-familiar dystopian currents of the day.
— The Millions

Murray’s stories are chilling, well-crafted firecrackers that illuminate as much as they startle. With this collection, she affirms short fiction’s power both to entertain and to tackle big issues.
— Daniel A. Olivas, Los Angeles Review of Books

Most writers are afraid of tackling these issues head on; Murray should be commended for not backing away and urging the reader to look with her.
— Maceo Montoya, author of The Scoundrel and the Optimist

Murray’s style is, by turns, sarcastic, witty, sobering, didactic, poignant, informative—and full of corazón. I believe it is a significant contribution.
— Patricia Santana, author of Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility

University of Nevada Press, 9781948908696, 274pp.

Publication Date: August 11, 2020

About the Author

Yxta Maya Murray is an art critic, author, and law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, CA. She has won a Whiting Writer's Award and an Art Writer's Grant. She was a finalist for the ASME Fiction Award in 2019. Her work has been published in ArtforumAperturePloughsharesConjunctionsThe Georgia ReviewGuernicaThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and other magazines.