Checking Out: Mixed Company

Set largely in and around Denver, Jenny Shank’s new short story collection, “Mixed Company,”  explores a variety of moments and situations featuring characters with different backgrounds who are navigating their interactions with one another. Sometimes funny and lighthearted, other times awkward and slightly tense, Shank’s stories don’t necessarily aim toward a tidy resolution or heart-filled lesson, instead opting to dissect the experiences and observations of engaging with the world around us. Exploring intersections of class, race, political ideology, and other differences, “Mixed Company” relies heavily on Shank’s own lived experiences in Denver.

The majority of Shank’s narrators and characters of focus are white women of varying ages, drawing from some of the author’s own life. But the stories explore a variety of interactions: “Signing for Linemen” follows a studious PhD candidate named Kimberly who tutors football players during the summer, while “Local Honey” describes a middle-aged white couple in Boulder who take their adopted black son to a Wu Tang Clan concert in Denver. “Community Relations” is the story of a young woman who works for the Colorado Rockies coordinating baseball game visits and events for children who are ill, while hiding her own past surviving cancer. “The Sit-In” focuses on a Fort Collins mom who takes up residence as the lone protestor at Corey Gardener’s local office, much to the chagrin of his young staff member, and “Lightest Lights Against Darkest Darks” explores a young white middle school girl’s experience being bussed to a school in a black neighborhood where she struggles between impressing her fellow students and her admiration for her art teacher.

While Shank writes mainly from the perspective of white female characters in this collection, she explores a variety of nuances and observations that take place within a wide range of incidents. By writing firmly from where she is, she still successfully engages with a number of complexities in our diverse and varying world. 

Check out “Mixed Company” at your closest Denver Public Library location.

Don’t forget to sign up for Winter of Reading!

Winter of Reading is still going strong! Stop by Smiley, Woodbury, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, or your other favorite Denver Public Library location to pick up your brochure. Complete five or more reading-related activities to earn a mug or tote bag between now and Feb. 28.

Hannah Evans is the senior librarian at the Smiley Branch of the Denver Public Library.


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