Review: Two Moons – Stories by Krystal A. Smith

cover two moons(Gorgeous cover art by Mirlande Jean-Gilles)

 

Happy very belated 2018! Hope you had a great start to the new year! Mine started with a flare-up unfortunately, but I’m back now and I’ve got such a good book rec for you.

Krystal A. Smith’s Two Moons GR is a Black speculative short story collection published by BLF Press. Founded by Stephanie Andrea Allen, Ph.D, it’s an excellent independent Black feminist press promoting the voices of women of color.

You may be familiar with Smith’s titular story “Two Moons,” if you’ve read the anthology Lez Talk from 2016. Her own new work collects 14 short stories of speculative fiction centering Black lesbian characters. As with any collection, I have my favorites of the bunch, though I pretty much loved them all. Here are some that particularly stood out to me:

Smith draws the reader into the collection with “Search,” a story in poetic style about a Black woman searching for her own self and setting out to find St. LaDonta. This story got me hooked right away, as it’s written in the second person, which I love and don’t come across often enough. It’s not easy to pull off, but when done well it’s something extra and Smith delivers.

In the titular “Two Moons,” Selene has always been drawn to the moon and when she’s grown up falls in love with her. But the Moon, so many miles away, loves her too. This story was very sweet and I loved the positivity of the relationship.

Meena & Ziyah meanwhile is about Ziyah, a healer priestess, and her lover Meena who is gifted with herbal medicine. The story stood out to me because it presents spirituality outside of Western religion and also shows the ways in which Black women care for and heal their community.

“Harvest” is an amazing story about Korinthia who also helps her community by growing plants and vegetables and is blessed by plentiful harvests. However she experiences several miscarriages and stillbirths and fears her current pregnancy will end the same way. This time around will be quite different though and it involves talking rabbits of all things!

“What the Heart Wants” is more whimsical even though it’s about Saachi who is unlucky in love. Deciding that she would be better off without her heart, Saachi pulls it out of her chest and asks it to leave. But it’s her heart that ends up taking care of her. A very cute and funny and weird story.

“Cosmic” is about the star Esme who is burdened by her family’s expectations and battling with drug addiction. Finally passing her exam and put on patrol duty, Esme believes in herself and takes a chance to redeem herself to her family and friends.

Now, these stories are quite short short stories. I really enjoy works that are concise, but just a heads-up if that’s important to you. I read one story before bed every night and it was a wonderful way to really focus on and savor each story. Hope to continue this new routine with other collections as reading more short stories is a reading resolution of mine this year.

The stories may be short but the characters come to live through unique voices. Finding themselves in difficult situations or at the cusp of change, Smith’s characters seek connections and relationships with the elements down on earth and up in space, but above all they find strength and magic in themselves. Much of Two Moons shows how happy and playful speculative fiction can be and gives happy endings to women loving women. I feel greedy saying this, as the book has not even been released, but I can’t wait to read more by this author!

finger iconTwo Moons: Stories comes out March 20th, you can pre-order directly from BLF Press or amazon and such of course!

Disclaimer: I received a free e-book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Trigger warnings: Miscarriage, stillbirth, terminal illness, addiction.

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About the author:

A North Carolina native, Krystal A. Smith, (i.e. K.A. Smith) is a Black lesbian writer of poetry and speculative fiction. Her poems have appeared in Tulips Touching (2011) and recent short stories have appeared in Ladylit Publishing’s Summer Love: Stories of Lesbian Holiday Romance (2015) and Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Fiction (2016). Krystal holds an M.A. in English from Western Carolina University, and a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University.

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10 Works of Black Lesbian Short Fiction

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Recently, I was asked about short story collections by women of Color, and what a timely thing, too, since I’m planning on reading more short fiction this year. Collections are always a bit complicated for me: on the one hand I want to take my time and savor each story, treat it as a complete work by itself (as should be, unless it’s interconnected stories), but on the other I usually fail and pressure myself to read the whole collection quickly. So this year, I will again start an extra page in my menu for short stories I’ve read. I used to do this a few years ago, but have sadly let it slide. That way I hope to concentrate on a variety of stories,  giving each the same attention I would give a novel.

Now, short story collections by women of Color, that covers a lot of ground! So I’m starting with this list of Black lesbian short fiction:

1.Does Your Mama Know?: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories by Lisa C. Moore, ed. gr-pic

does-your-mama-know

This important 1998 collection showcases Black lesbian coming out experiences. Many of the contributions are short stories but you can also find poems, interviews and essays. Edited by Lisa C. Moore who is also the founder and editor of the amazing RedBone Press, which publishes Black lesbian and gay literature. Note: There is now a second edition that comes with 17 new stories!

2.Speaking in Whispers: African-American Lesbian Erotica by Kathleen E. Morris gr-pic

speaking-in-whispers

A 1996 collection of erotic short fiction, celebrating Black lesbian sexuality and sensuality, also available from RedBone Press! Kathleen E. Morris identifies herself as a militant total femme dyke.

3.Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing by Catherine E. McKinley, L. Joyce DeLaney, eds. gr-pic

afrekete

First published in 1995, the Afrekete anthology also includes poetry and nonfiction. It features works by Audre Lorde, Jewelle Gómez, Jacqueline Woodson, Alexis De Veaux and more and was nominated for the Lambda award in 1996.

4.Don’t Explain by Jewelle Gómez gr-pic

dont-explain-gomez

In her short story collection, American writer and cultural worker Jewelle Gómez (of The Gilda Stories fame) presents Black lesbian speculative fiction set in 1960s Boston and other futures.

5.Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories by Shonia Brown, ed. gr-pic

longing-love-and-lust

A 2006 collection of erotic short fiction about Black lesbian love at different stages., edited by Shonia Brown, author of a novel and independent book publisher.

6.Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction by S. Andrea Allen, Lauren Cherelle, eds. gr-pic

lez-talk

A recent addition, this collection presents stories about the range of Black lesbian experiences in such genres as romance and SFF. Editor S. Andrea Allen is also the founder and publisher of Black feminist press BLF Press, take a look!

7.Two Moons: Stories by Krystal A. Smith gr-pic

two-moons

This collection isn’t out yet, but will be released June 20, 2017 ( also by BLF Press)! Krystal A. Smith is a “Black lesbian writer of poetry and speculative fiction.”

8.Callaloo & Other Lesbian Love Tales by LaShonda K. Barnett gr-pic

callaloo

LaShonda Barnett is an author, radio host and scholar, and also the author of the novel Jam! On the Vine. Her short story collection from 1999 presents tales of Black lesbian women from different walks of life.

9.Black Girl Love by Anondra “Kat” Williams gr-pic

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Anondra “Kat” Williams is a writer and poet as well as a radio host and the author of another collection, SistaGirl. Black Girl Love collects more than 25 short stories and poems about Black lesbians on love, life and sex.

10.Once and Future Lovers: A Collection of Short Fiction by Sheree L. Greer gr-pic

once-and-future-lovers

Sheree L. Greer is an author and the host of Oral Fixation, an LGBTQ Open Mic series. Her 2012 book is a short collection about the courage, joy, pain and pleasure of love and relationships.

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How do you read short story collections? And have you read any of the works above? 

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Further reading:

For all the Black lesbian lit recommendations, visit Rena’s excellent blog Sistahs on the Shelf.

For more generally diverse short story collections, see for example Naz’ wonderful list “Give Short Fiction A Chance” here.