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Rites: Stories

by Savannah Johnston

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Set in Oklahoma, this collection of short stories documents the quiet sorrow of everyday life as Johnston’s characters traverse the normalized, heartbreaking rites of passage such as burying a grandfather, mother, or husband, becoming a sex worker, or reconnecting with family after prison; the effects are subtle, yet loud, and always enduring. Johnston delivers this economy of loss and resilience with biting, captivating prose.

“Savannah Johnston in her debut collection, Rites: Stories is shown to be a writer of beautifully and calmly compressed prose and sly, powerful storytelling.” — Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone and The Maid’s Version


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Critical Acclaim

In biting, sparse prose that speaks to the ingrained sorrow of everyday life, Johnston showcases the sustained act of human resilience in this collection of short stories that focuses on Indigenous people in Oklahoma.

Whether following the life of a young girl who recently lost her grandfather, a newly released “convict,” a sex worker, a new, struggling father, or a bereaved widow and mother, Johnston documents the struggles, defeats, and little victories of these unsung individuals as they navigate a world that refuses to recognize them.

Praise for Rites: Stories

“From the first few lines of Savannah Johnston’s Rites, we know we’re in for a wild, beautiful ride in Indian country. The language sings with a kind of tenderness and toughness that is so rare and so lovely. And her characters? They will break your heart.” — Erika Wurth, author of Buckskin Cocaine and Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend

“Savannah Johnston offers us characters neglected, marginalized, hurt and hurting others, with brutal honesty and intensity that’s nuanced and unsentimental. Her writing deftly peels away the layers that make people who they are, not to ask for forgiveness or pity for her characters, but to make us pay attention to how hard it is to be a person in the world.” — Dima Alzayat, author of Alligator and Other Stories

 “These stories are raw postcards from an America that has found its chronicler. Unflinching and honest, Savannah Johnston’s compelling work, her necessary Choctaw voice, is an important addition to contemporary fiction.” — Sabina Murray, PEN/Faulkner Award winning author of The Human Zoo and Valiant Gentlemen