"Black Woman Gossip" listed my favorite black women story collections, including Alice's IN LOVE AND TROUBLE: STORIES OF BLACK WOMEN. In particular I noted the transfer of African oral tradition to the printed word, with the necessity to shortcut African-American speech for varieties of oppressive reasons leading to virtues of expression and cadence, and, of course, secrets. Since then, today's publication of Deesha Philyaw's THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES (West Virginia University Press, 2020) pinched me like a church lady would, to tell me it's time for an update.
Gholar has a provided missive for a new way to write about the creative life, art-making and (most specifically) Black women navigating those historically troubled waters for all talents.
Dear Readers: Rachel León interviewed me for Chicago Review of Books on my latest novel SPEAKING OF SUMMER, the writing life and working in Chicago. I’d forgotten how much we covered: the novel composition process, support (or the lack thereof) for mental health, inequities in approaches to men and women’s meditative literature, unsafety for women. Share, repost, comment, like and follow. Thank you!
Kalisha Buckhanon doesn’t have a smart phone. Her first advice to new writers is to get rid of it. She writes on an old desktop computer without internet for the same reason she likes being a writer in Chicago — it allows her to get work done.
And that’s lucky for us because her new novel, Speaking of Summer, is a dynamic and important story that will provoke needed conversations about the devastating effects of trauma and mental illness.
In the novel, Summer walks to the roof of the Harlem brownstone she shares with her twin sister and disappears into the cold winter night. The mysterious circumstances of her disappearance set up a compelling tale about safety and violence, mental health and trauma, and victim invisibility.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Kalisha Buckhanon over the phone. An edited transcript of our conversation appears below.
Rachel León: I…
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Gholar's display of glorious art and life-giving paintings, completed across five years, come with grown woman commentary about what it took to see each piece through. In wisdom, she snakes the darkest corners of life- grief, breakups, economic peril- in a chronology of change and chaos where blank canvas was the steadiest hold.
You'd be correct to expect this story of a young Renaissance woman's fantasy trip, to live like her iconic Black American idols, to be sexy and to weave in Josephine Baker. The novel's heroine goes to Paris in search of Baldwin and finds jazz, interracial love and the freelance hustler life...
We can all magnify our voices this year, to make some serious contributions and change some lives. I hope you take your ideas and visions- a new business, more love in your relationships, superior health, more education- to new heights.