#BrazosBest: What Kathleen Collins Left Behind

Article by staff

The Gist: A posthumously published short story collection by Kathleen Collins, an important and newly re-discovered African American writer
The Chatters: Mark Haber (Store Manager) and Keaton Patterson (Book Buyer)

Keaton: Here we are, at the beginning of a new year, with a new round of #BrazosBest, one of our favorite programs at the store. Today, we’re talking about our favorite book of January, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO INTERRACIAL LOVE?, the posthumous short story collection by the previously unheralded Kathleen Collins, whom I wouldn’t hesitate to call a genius. She died way before her time, but has left us with slim volume of remarkable fiction. I think she was a renaissance lady, and had hands in lots of different creative pies: she was an activist, a filmmaker, a short story writer, a playwright. She did it all, and I was very happy to find this collection.

Mark: Keaton, you brought this book to my attention, and you know just after reading two or three of these stories that she’s an absolute master of the form. I haven’t seen the movie she directed, but I’ve talked to people who have, and I hear it’s as remarkable as this collection.

Keaton: The film she did in early 80s, Losing Ground, was, I believe, the first feature film directed by a black woman in America, and a very rare portrait of a black female intellectual when you didn’t see that (and, of course, you still don’t see it, really). Her short stories go all over the place, investigating love, obsession, gender…

Mark: …family…

Keaton: …race, of course, and how we formulate sense of self and community in a world that isn’t always sympathetic. One of my favorite pieces is the title story, which is a heartbreaking look at the idealism of early 60s, as white and black young men and women come together to try and make the world better for themselves. It centers on a group of people living communally in bohemian New York, and there’s interracial love going on. But it peels back the idealism and shows the reality of violence and racism and how the outside culture destroys dreamers.

Mark: One early story really struck me: it’s called “The Uncle,” and it’s about a man who cries himself to sleep every night. It’s told through a child’s eyes, somebody who wouldn’t see the uncle for many years at a time, and it’s a great portrait of a relative who isn’t normal and isn’t good at coping with things. It’s a touching story.

Keaton: Yes, and a great portrait of depression.

Mark: Absolutely.

Keaton: Somebody literally dies of sadness. Heartbreaking. Those stories show how Collins was a marvel at depicting not only internal psychological turmoil, but also societal turmoil, and how those things intertwine.

Mark: Yeah, she does a lot with very little. She has a light touch, with every word placed perfectly.

Keaton: It’s really one of those what-could-have-been questions with her, because she died at forty-six, and she didn’t leave very much behind in terms of her body of work. Her daughter inherited these papers and held onto them for decades, and now they’re finally out in the world. It almost feels like this book was destined to arrive now, because the stories feel especially important in this tumultuous time. More appropriate than ever.

Mark: Definitely. And this is also a good time to talk about our new year of #BrazosBest. Looking back over 2016, it was a big success. We found books that spoke to us and that we were able to share and celebrate with our customers.

Keaton: Yeah. We love all these books, because we choose them ourselves. It was a great array of books we came across. 2017 is shaping up to be just as good, if not better. We’ll have books from...well, I don’t want to spoil anything! But we’ve got good ones coming up for our customers. It’s gonna be great, and also the time when we’ll be introducing our subscription service. So if you’re already a fan, or if you just want to have a try, come talk to us and we’ll hook you up.

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062484154
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - December 6th, 2016

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