Black History Month ends today, but you really should be reading books by black writers of the past year-round. And you can add this one to your to-read list: Whatever Happened To Interracial Love?, a short story collection by Kathleen Collins that I recently read and loved.
Collins was a black woman writer, playwright, and filmmaker working in the 1970s and '80s. She is best known for her 1982 film Losing Ground, with which she became the first black woman to direct a feature-length film in the US.
Collins died in 1988 at the age of 46, leaving behind a large amount of unpublished work. Now, a collection of her short stories is being published for the first time. Titled Whatever Happened To Interracial Love? and published in December 2016, these 16 short stories explore the lives of black women in the '60s, '70s and early '80s. Collins tackles first loves; falling-apart marriages; the tensions of interracial relationships; and the struggle of trying to find a place for yourself in the world.
I loved it, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Zadie Smith said: “I was moved, agitated and inspired by Kathleen Collins’s rediscovered Whatever Happened to Interracial Love.'
On Goodreads, Roxane Gay wrote: “Elegant collection of stories. Fascinating to read fiction from a black woman about blackness in the early 1960s. There is a real edge, a slyness to many of the stories. And there is always a moment in each story where you realize the work Collins is doing beneath the skin of the story. The title story, in particular, is a masterpiece.”
Here’s a paragraph I loved, from the title story. Our narrator is a young black woman who has just been dumped by her white boyfriend after he visited his parents:
“Then she thought, I must find an apartment high up, around the twentieth floor, where the sun will come flooding in in the morning and I won’t awaken inside a deep shaft of gloom. Then I will be able to think and see clearly, about how integration came into style. And people getting along for a while. Inside the melting pot. Inside the melting pot.
“It’s 1963. Whatever happened to interracial love?”
You can read one of the short stories in full, “Exteriors,” over at LitHub.
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