When I heard that one my favorite authors, K.A. Smith, was going to be in a new anthology, I couldn’t wait to read it. I pre-ordered Lez Talk, and was super excited when it appeared on my Kindle.
Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction is comprised of sixteen stories that defy easy classification. There are stories of sadness and pain, of love and sex, and even of magic. One of the editors, S. Andrea Allen writes in the introduction that
We say in our call for submissions: “We operated under the assumption that lesbian is not a dirty word.” At a time where a disavowal of any type of stable identity is at an all time high, it is important for us to focus on writing that celebrates Black lesbian identities and amplifies the diversity of Black lesbian experiences.
Allen and Cherelle did a standout job. The stories were ordered in a way that I wanted to keep reading, rather than feel fatigued. The variation in themes kept the anthology from being repetitive (which is always a danger). I finished the anthology last week, and I’ve been talking it up like crazy. As a bookworm, I know of no higher form of praise.
While I like most of the stories, there were some standouts that deserve extra applause.
K.A. Smith has two stories in the anthology. Darker the Berry and Two Moons. In Darker the Berry, what looks like a supermarket pickup and casual sex turns out to be so much more complex than it first appears. I told K.A. that I would love to read a novel set in the Two Moons world because in such a short, lyrical piece, she does some intriguing world-building. K.A. is a member in my “never disappoints” club–I know that if I’m picking up an anthology or independent work by her, I will never be disappointed. (Click here for my review of Get At Me and Gina’s Do-Over).
S. Andrea Allen’s story, Pretty, resonated strongly for me. It begins “Everybody said she was pretty, for a fat girl.” I don’t think that there is a plus-sized woman who hasn’t heard that dig. I blinked back tears at the end of the story for that, too, was a moment I identified with. Her second story in the anthology, Epiphany, is the story of a love gone toxic. What do you do when you need to leave a relationship, but can’t see the way out? I walked away wanting to read more by Allen because in both stories, I became emotionally invested in her character’s stories and their outcomes.
Eternity Philops nearly broke my heart with The Other Side of Crazy. Delilah’s girlfriend Sam is cheating on her. Again. She waits for Sam to come home, but she doesn’t. Delilah ends up seeing Sam ]kissing a girl. The resolution of their story is gut-wrenching. Of all the stories in the anthology, this is the one that I’ve most revisited, emotionally, and continue to think about.
La Toya Hankins’s One More weaves the story of Toni’s first few decades of life. We bear witness to her first flickering crush in childhood that ends in shame, to her mom threatening to pull her financial support in college unless Toni renounces being gay, and the eve of her wedding. We see glimpses of the journey her family has taken on the road to accepting and celebrating Toni for who she is. Everyone except her mother. It hurts to be judged. It’s doubly painful when one’s mother–the person society tells us is supposed to love us no matter what–is the one doing the denying and shaming. Hankins deftly tells the story without allowing it to ever dip into melodrama, which it easily could have in the hands of a less skilled author. Bring tissues.
I would really love to see this become an annual anthology, or the first in a series.
Filed under: book reviews, LGBT | Tagged: book reviews, delilah night, Enternity Philops, K. A. Smith, La Toya Hankins, Les Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction, LGBT book reviews, LGBT fiction, recommended reads, S. Andrea Allen |