(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 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!
Disclaimer: I received a free e-book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warnings: Miscarriage, stillbirth, terminal illness, addiction.
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.