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photograph of Cobb's Hill, or Pinnacle Hill, by Charles C. Zoller: a child dressed in red and white appears in foreground, along with an architectural column, surrounded by shrubs; in the distance a white house sits on a hill with a path leading up to it; text reads How to Make Your Mother Cry: Fictions, Sejal Shah

Sejal Shah

May 2024
PB 978-1-959000-13-6
eBook 978-1-959000-14-3

How to Make Your Mother Cry



In the eleven linked short stories of How to Make Your Mother Cry, Sejal Shah builds a shrine gleaming with memory and myth. Keys, rocks, photographs, fairy tales, fables, and relics all add texture and meaning to an exploration of growing up and living as a diasporic Gujarati woman in a culture that excuses the behavior of men. Throughout, girls and women contend with the expectations, limitations, and challenges of becoming the heroine of one’s own life.

How to Make Your Mother Cry—Shah’s follow-up to her award-winning essay collection This Is One Way to Dance—continues the rich tradition of innovative feminist work by Claudia Rankine, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Maxine Hong Kingston. By braiding stories and images with fictional letters to a beloved English teacher, the collection defies traditional autofiction, epistolary, and short story conventions. These astonishing stories about friendship and love, resilience and survival establish Shah as an exciting new voice in contemporary fiction.



I. A girl walks into the forest
The Girl with Two Brothers
Mary, Staring at Me
Dicot, Monocot

II. A girl is lost in the woods
(Independence, Iowa)
How to Make Your Mother Cry
Watch Over Me; Turn a Blind Eye
Climate, Man, Vegetation
Ithaca Is Never Far
(Everybody’s Greatest Hits)

III. A girl claws her way out
(The Granite State)
The Half King
Skeleton, Rock, Shell

Companion Texts
Ephemera Archive
Liner Notes
Gratitudes & Ghost Tracks


Sejal Shah is an artist, dancer, poet, writer, and teacher whose work crosses genres and disciplines. The daughter of immigrants from Kenya and India, she is the author of the award-winning essay collection This Is One Way to Dance and the groundbreaking essay on invisible disability and neurodiversity “Even If You Can’t See It.” She lives in Rochester, New York.


How to Make Your Mother Cry is an incredible cross-cultural manifesto of word and body: What is home. What is mother. What is family. What is self. What is woman, and how do we story her.”
Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Thrust and Verge

“Urgent, intense, and intimate, the stories in Sejal Shah’s How to Make Your Mother Cry conjure memories and stir the soul. A clever and beautifully crafted collection!”
Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

“Sejal Shah has written a stunning hybrid work, and I’m in awe of its candor, risk, and craft—this is a book I will recommend to other writers, professors of creative writing, and readers of literary texts. I see Shah’s book as broadening and supporting the larger conversation of work by writers of color.”
Jon Pineda, author of Let’s No One Get Hurt

“Each sentence is its own jewel box of pleasures and delights. Like works by Sara Ahmed, Audre Lorde, and Claudia Rankine, this groundbreaking collection will be a touchpoint for years and decades to come.”
Rahul Mehta, author of No Other World and Feeding the Ghosts

“If a queer text is an unsettled one, crossing cultures, crossing genres, then this book rescripts what we think we know. Shah is a master storyteller who keeps us knowing differently. How to Make Your Mother Cry is bold and brave. A collection for a new century.”
Dawn Lundy Martin, author of Good Stock Strange Blood