Bad Kansas

Stories by Becky Mandelbaum

A collection of stories based on the lives of tenacious and original characters


“With heart and precision, and a fresh and resilient humor, Bad Kansas reveals the lives people are living in that flyover state in a collection in which every sentence is a made thing, never merely a vehicle for conveying information to the reader. Mandelbaum’s sharp eye for detail, a deep emotional intelligence, and a slightly canted—yet ultimately compassionate—worldview combine to produce complex, authentic, empathic characters, reminiscent of two of the greatest place-based collections ever: Richard Ford’s Rock Springs and Annie Proulx’s Close Range.”
—Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

“A splendid debut—smart, funny, refreshing. I read it with delight.”
—Lynn Freed, author of The Last Laugh and The Romance of Elsewhere


The eleven beautifully crafted stories in Bad Kansas reveal the complicated underbelly of the country’s most flown-over state and the quirky characters that call it home. In this darkly humorous collection, Kansas becomes a state of mind as Mandelbaum’s characters struggle to define their relationship to home and what it means to stay or leave, to hold on or let go. When a desperate woman finds herself on a date with a rugged man she has nothing in common with, she must decide whether to sacrifice the life of a bear in order to keep the man’s affection. After having a nightmare about a mallard, a young man wakes to discover he’s choking the woman he loves. When his mother starts dating a slimy pizza parlor owner, a young boy must choose whether to align with his mischievous older brother or remain loyal to his mom. The deeply appealing and peculiar characters in Bad Kansas are determined to get what they want, be it love or sex or power, in a world intent on denying them.

Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction

Page count: 176
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $24.95

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Becky Mandelbaum is the winner of the 2013 Lawrence Art Center’s Langston Hughes Award for Fiction. Her work has appeared in the Georgia Review, Necessary Fiction, Salt Hill, Great Jones Street, Hobart, Juked, Midwestern Gothic, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. She received her MA in English from the University of California, Davis. Originally from Kansas, she currently lives in Washington where she works in North Cascades National Park.