Issue 157: Girls Only

My freshman year of college, I was assigned to a quad. There were four girls jammed into a space meant for two people, and before long we became known as a collective: Room 208. We don’t see each other too often anymore, but whenever we do cross paths I can instantly feel the bonds of our shared past and friendship. We went through the trials of early adulthood together, and like blood, it sealed something between us. In the new issue of One Story, “Girls Only,” Karen Shepard delves deep into the mystery of college friendships, when a group of old roommates—reunited for a wedding—unravels after a hidden secret comes to the surface. This is a tale about collective guilt and responsibility, about the lies people will tell themselves to keep looking in the mirror each day. The crime that inspired “Girls Only,” which Karen Shepard reveals in her Q&A with us, is shocking and not for the faint of heart. But it is how that initial seed of an idea was altered, cultivated and grown into a story that reveals Shepard’s tremendous talent as a writer and observer of the human condition. Already, One Story has been receiving messages from people touched by “Girls Only,” and the complicated issues of self-deception it lays bare with skillful humor and brutal honesty. I’ve been an admirer of Karen Shepard’s work for years, and it’s an honor to welcome her into the One Story family. Like Room 208, I have a feeling she’d have my back in a fight, and if I called for help she would come running.

6 thoughts on “Issue 157: Girls Only

  1. This is my very first issue of One Story. I became interested in the power and often open ends of short stories when I came across Neil Gaiman. When I was younger, I hated short stories as I perceived them to hopelessly leave the reader hanging about. As I’ve grown older, I realize there are some, actually many, decisions we must draw upon ourselves. Life quite rarely concludes in a happy well appreciated fairy tale. Life often leaves us just as a short story does in which after the last word you think to yourself, “Huh?”

  2. And “HUH???” is exactly the way I felt after reading this one.

    Was there a point to this story? Why do all the characters seem to be exactly the same person? I kept waiting for something to happen or some secret to be revealed–the “event” that happened back in college that they didn’t want to talk about seemed to be more of a non-event that even the so-called victim, Daphne, didn’t seem to care much about. This story evoked no emotion in me whatsoever except annoyance that I wasted those minutes of my life reading it.

  3. I don’t know what’s going on, but One Story has been so underwhelming and forgettable lately. They just don’t see to take the same risks they used to. I probably won’t renew my subscription.

  4. As a college student, I thought “Girls Only” was relevant and honest. The girls’ relationship is so representative of college friendships, and the event that everyone has tried to forget is one that happens too often on college campuses. We would all like to think that, when faced with such a terrible situation, we would do the right thing; we would call for help, we would rescue our friend, we would do something. But that’s not always what happens. Often, we regret the times we did nothing, the times when we could have said something but didn’t. That feeling is explored in “Girls Only,” and Shepard writes in a way that doesn’t accuse but still encourages self-reflection. The story was heart-breaking, but it also made me feel that, should I ever be faced with such a situation, I need to do something about it, no matter how difficult it is.

    I really recommend the Q&A, too – the event that inspired the story is one that I think everyone should hear about, and it may clear up any of the questions that surfaced while reading the story.

  5. I didn’t see the reveal as a “non-event” at all. Trauma survivors often play down what happened to them in order to try and keep it from interfering with daily life. Shepard’s choice to avoid over-writing it made her narrative all the more convincing. What a gripping piece!

  6. Whoa, agreed, Julia. I certainly didn’t see that as a “non-event”! Just finished reading this but I can already tell it will haunt me for a long time. To me, even more disturbing than the friends’ non-action was the fact that Daphne remained friends with them, nominally at least, and that it didn’t seem to change much about the way the friends treated her … something so sad and true about that.

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