So, first of all, I read both of them in German because there is this lovely edition that combines both of them in one volume, and because honestly, remembering Otoo as the winner of the Ingeborg Bachmann price, I had kind of forgotten that not all of her work was originally written in German. The English originals are here: the things i am thinking while smiling politely and Synchronicity.
These two novellas have some things in common, such as the Berlin setting (at least I think it is Berlin in Synchronicity, too? Well, some German city at least), the reflections on family and motherhood and the Black protagonists' struggles with a racist society, but they read very differently, and I found very different approaches to them.
the things i am thinking while smiling politely is, in some ways, the type of story that I read a lot of 8-ish years ago: Important-literature-feeling and serious. About real-ish people in real-ish worlds. I haven't read many of those recently, and I was unsure if I'd like it. Luckily, the things i am thinking while smiling politely is pretty great. Sure, it's one of those serious stories, but it's one where the language flows nicely and I can't help but be genuinely interested in the characters and their conflicts (and oh gosh, those are some conflicts). It's good, and that I don't love-love it is merely a genre preference.
Synchronicity, on the other hand, is pleasantly bizarre and made me think "heck yes" a lot. I loved that story. Originally an advent calendar like story for Otoo's friends, it's about a woman who each day loses her ability to perceive another color, until, well, all of her colors are gone and other things happen. This one went at my feelings. It's about loneliness, about hurting people that you love, and about the world feeling strange, among many other things. I loved every second and every word of it. I guess this is magical realism? But the kind that I'm not bored and annoyed by. It is just lovely. Lovely magical realism that hurts and feels good. I'm sure that I'm going to read it again.