Coming of Age Short Stories

In a coming of age short story, the protagonist, usually an adolescent, experiences a significant event – a turning point or illuminating moment – that brings an adult understanding of the world. The incident causes a loss of innocence; the protagonist can no longer live completely sheltered as a child.

These stories might interest an avid reader, or might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.

I Want to Know Why | Sherwood Anderson

A teenage boy in small-town Kentucky loves horses and horse racing. He tries to make sense of an incident that affected him deeply.

Read here

The Intruder | Andre Dubus

Kenneth is a thirteen-year-old boy who likes to take his gun out to shoot tin cans and pretend he’s a military captain.

Read here

The Man Who Was Almost a Man | Richard Wright

Dave Saunders, a plantation worker, is annoyed that he’s treated like a boy. He thinks that he would be a man if he could buy a gun, so he goes to the local general store.

Read here

A Company of Laughing Faces | Nadine Gordimer

Seventeen-year-old Kathy is taken by her mother to an affluent society party to meet people her own age and have some fun. She has trouble fitting in and has some eye-opening experiences.

Read here

Girl | Jamaica Kincaid

In this prose/poem hybrid, a mother gives her daughter some advice about how to behave and on becoming a woman.

Read “Girl”

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? | Joyce Carol Oates

A rebellious fifteen-year-old girl encounters an older man in a parking lot. He later shows up at her place when she’s home alone to ask her to go for a ride with him.

This story has a lot of tension.

Read here

Moon Lake | Eudora Welty

At a summer camp, three girls spend time together and learn how to swim.

Marigolds | Eugenia W. Collier

Lizabeth recalls a time when she was fourteen, in Maryland, during the Depression. A woman in her neighborhood, Miss Lottie, lives in a dilapidated home, but has a colorful marigold garden. She’s an outcast, and the children make her a target of taunts.

Read here

The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant | W. D. Wetherell

A fourteen-year-old boy who loves fishing spends his summer vacation at his family’s cabin. He’s infatuated with seventeen-year-old Sheila Mant, from the cabin next door. He watches her longingly for some time before asking her to a concert.

Eleven | Sandra Cisneros

An eleven-year-old girl tells the story of something unjust and humiliating that happened at school.

Read here

American History | Judith Ortiz Cofer

A fourteen-year-old Puerto Rican girl, Elena, lives in a rundown apartment building. A new family moves in to the house next door, including Eugene, a boy that Elena wants to get to know.

Read here

A Day in the Dark | Elizabeth Bowen

The narrator, Barbie, looks back on a day when she was fifteen. In a small town, she goes to the home of a prominent woman on behalf of her uncle, to return a magazine and ask that she lend her uncle a farming tool.

Thanks for the Ride | Alice Munro

Two young guys drive into a small town looking for some girls to spend the weekend with. They meet Adelaide and then go to the home of her friend Lois, and meet her family.

Read here

Raymond’s Run | Toni Cade Bambara

A young girl, Hazel, trains for a May Day race while looking after her older, mentally challenged brother, Raymond. Hazel is known as the fastest runner in her neighborhood and is determined to live up to her reputation.

Read here

Her First Ball | Katherine Mansfield

Eighteen-year-old Leila, a country girl, goes to her first society ball with her cousins, city girls with more social experience.

Read here

I’m a Fool | Sherwood Anderson

A nineteen-year-old horse groomer buys some fancy cigars and sits in the grandstand at the races. He meets a young woman and they spend some time together.

Read here

Four Summers | Joyce Carol Oates

The narrator, Sissie, relates her experiences over four summers, from childhood to nineteen-years-old.

Lost in the Funhouse | John Barth

A family goes to a funhouse with a neighbor girl, Magda, whom the two boys in the family are attracted to. The thirteen-year-old boy, Ambrose, comes to some realizations about himself. An omniscient narrator interrupts the story to comment on it and on storytelling.

Read here

Debbie and Julie | Doris Lessing

Julie is a pregnant teen living with Debbie, a prostitute, in her London apartment. Debbie has been very helpful but she’s extended a trip with a man and is out of town when Julie’s water breaks. Julie follows the plan of going to an unlocked shed where she can give birth.

The Grave | Katherine Anne Porter

Miranda, nine-years-old, goes out hunting with her twelve-year-old brother, Paul. Before they start, they stop at some empty graves on the family’s land. They dig for a while, each of them uncovering an item to take with them. Then they set out in search of a rabbit or bird.

Read here

My Kinsman, Major Molineux | Nathaniel Hawthorne

A young man, Robin, arrives by ferry in a New England city. He is looking for Major Molineux, but when he asks people if they know where he is, he gets anger or silence from the strangers.

Read here

A Sunrise on the Veld | Doris Lessing

A fifteen-year-old boy wakes up at 4:30 AM to go hunting. He’s excited and energetic, loving life and feeling he is in control of everything.

Read here

Greasy Lake | T. C. Boyle

Three young men are out late driving, drinking and using drugs. When they get to Greasy Lake they see a parked car. Thinking a man they know is in the car with a girl they decide to harass him a bit. It turns out to be a stranger who gets upset at the interruption; the confrontation escalates quickly.

Read here

The Haunted Boy | Carson McCullers

Hugh, a high school student, comes home from school one day with his friend John. He calls out to his mother, but there’s no answer. John notices that Hugh is worried and asks him about it. Hugh gives some background on his mother.

Read “The Haunted Boy”

The Treasure of Lemon Brown | Walter Dean Myers

Greg Ridley is a fourteen-year-old student in danger of failing math. His father tells him he can’t play basketball anymore. While out walking one night, Greg takes refuge in an abandoned tenement building. He finds a local homeless man there, Lemon Brown.

Read here

The Scholarship Jacket | Marta Salinas

A fourteen-year-old girl in a small town Texas school has been a straight A student for eight years. This means she will be awarded the school’s scholarship jacket, but a complication arises.

Read here

Champion’s Son | Jack Schaefer

The narrator’s father is a former roping champion. He likes telling his schoolmates about his father’s abilities and the record he held. A rodeo and fair is coming up. It will be headlined by the new roping star, Cal Bennett.

Dead End | Rudolfo Anaya

Maria likes Frankie and he has noticed her. Maria’s friends tell her to do herself up more to attract him. She’s torn between her interest in Frankie and her desire to focus on her education.

Read here

Into the Game| Rita Williams-Garcia

The narrator and his two friends take the subway into the city to “get into the game” – to step into life because they’re a year older now. They are uncomfortable with girls. One of them embarrassed the group with his dancing at a party.

Peter Two | Irwin Shaw

Peter, thirteen-years-old, watches action programs on T.V. where the hero always overcomes danger no matter what the odds. He thinks back on an incident from school when he defended a weaker student. Peter feels he will become a hero whom others can turn to for help.

Read “Peter Two”

The Parsley Garden | William Saroyan

A boy, Al, is humiliated after being caught shoplifting. He’s determined to regain his self-respect.

Read here

Boys and Girls | Alice Munro

The narrator relates a time from her childhood. Her father is a fox farmer; he raises foxes , skins them, and then sells the skins to fur traders. The narrator helps her father with some of the related chores. She prefers this work to helping around the house. She keeps hearing that she will soon do more around the house and behave in a more girl-like way.

Read “Boys and Girls”

The Found Boat | Alice Munro

The Wawanash River overflows its banks every spring. Eva and Carol wade into the water with some boys from school. They find a damaged rowboat. They boys lug it to a backyard and fix it up.

Read “The Found Boat”

The Flowers | Alice Walker

Myop is a ten-year-old girl who is out exploring the woods behind her family’s sharecropper cabin on a beautiful summer day. As she starts to head home she makes a shocking discovery.

Read “The Flowers”

See also: That Evening Sun (Fear), Indian Education (Racism)

I will try to add more coming of age stories that could be helpful for teaching reading and reading comprehension to middle  and high school students. Eventually, I hope these pages will become a teaching resource.