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Neighbors and Other Stories
Diane Oliver, introduction by Tayari Jones


A bold and haunting debut story collection that follows various characters as they navigate the day-to-day perils of Jim Crow racism from Diane Oliver, a missing figure in the canon of twentieth-century African American literature, with an introduction by Tayari Jones.

A remarkable talent far ahead of her time, Diane Oliver died in 1966 at the age of 22, leaving behind these crisply told and often chilling tales that explore race and racism in 1950s and 60s America. In this first and only collection by a masterful storyteller finally taking her rightful place in the canon, Oliver’s insightful stories reverberate into the present day.

There’s the nightmarish “The Closet on the Top Floor” in which Winifred, the first Black student at her newly integrated college, starts to physically disappear; “Mint Juleps not Served Here” where a couple living deep in a forest with their son go to bloody lengths to protect him; “Spiders Cry without Tears,” in which a couple, Meg and Walt, are confronted by prejudices and strains of interracial and extramarital love; and the high tension titular story that follows a nervous older sister the night before her little brother is set to desegregate his school.

These are incisive and intimate portraits of African American families in everyday moments of anxiety and crisis that look at how they use agency to navigate their predicaments. As much a social and historical document as it is a taut, engrossing collection, Neighbors is an exceptional literary feat from a crucial once-lost figure of letters.


Diane Oliver was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and after graduating from high school, she attended Women’s College (which later became the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and was the Managing Editor ofThe Carolinian, the student newspaper. She published four short stories in her lifetime and three more posthumously: ‘Key to the City’ and ‘Neighbors’ published inThe Sewanee Reviewin 1966; ‘Health Service’, ‘Traffic Jam’ and ‘Mint Juleps Not Served Here’ published inNegro Digestin 1965, 1966 and 1967 respectively; ‘The Closet on the Top Floor’ published inSouthern Writing in the Sixtiesin 1966; and ‘“No Brown Sugar in Anybody’s Milk”’ published inThe Paris Reviewin 2023. ‘Neighbors’ was a recipient of an O. Henry Award in 1967. Diane began graduate work at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop and was awarded the MFA degree posthumously days after her death, at the age of 22, in a motorcycle accident in 1966.


“At a moment when short stories seem less regular launchpads for long careers than occasional meteors, reading these is like finding hunks of gold bullion buried in your backyard . . . These stories detail basic routines of getting through difficult days, but then often deliver a massive wallop.” -- Alexandra Jacobs, New York Times

“Oliver’s perceptive, insightful work reflects great talent and ambition. The ease and elegance of her prose are striking, as is her faith in her readers’ intelligence—the certainty that they will see glints of subtext without the need for explication.” -- Jackie Thomas-Kennedy, Washington Post

“These short stories confront living through racism in Jim Crow America in intimate, often chilling tales. An engrossing book by a talent lost too young.”-- People, “Best Books to Read in February”

Neighbors and Other Stories offers an amalgamation of tales—some harrowing—told by a writer who knew all too well what it meant to be racialized. Oliver’s insights give the powerful storytelling that much more punch.”-- Christian Science Monitor

“Oliver’s subject is the black female experience in 1960s America, in the period when racial segregation was illegal but prejudices remained ingrained—but the tales succeed for their literary qualities, not their subject matter . . . We can only imagine what wonders Oliver might have produced had she lived, but the precocious talent on display here is cause enough for celebration.” -- John Self, The Guardian

“Despite having died at just 22 years old in 1966, Diane Oliver created remarkable, prescient work. Collected here for the first time (with an intro from the one and only Tayari Jones!) Oliver’s stories are intimate snapshots of African Americans navigating the tensions and dangers of a rapidly changing world . . . The core issues in these stories resonate still, and I’m grateful that Grove Atlantic has given Oliver’s work new life.” -- Arianna Rebolini, Bustle

“To read Diane Oliver’s stories is to be doubly wrenched—first by their unflinching view of the adversity faced by her Black characters in various desegregated environments, and second by the realization of how much more the author might have produced if she hadn’t died so young in the 1960s. This remarkable posthumous collection offers much more than a time capsule—it gives a glimpse at what could have been a towering literary legacy.” --David Varno, Publishers Weekly, “PW Picks”

“Pin-sharp prose, keen observation and a deep emotional engagement with the struggles of black lives in the Jim Crow era of the American South are the mainstays of this remarkable collection.” -- Daily Mail

[H]  Grove Press  /  February 13, 2024

1.42" H x 8.35" L x 5.51" W (0.84 lbs) 320 pages