This book of short stories comes with its own interesting backstory. Kathleen Collins was a playwright and filmmaker, with notable credits to her name. In 1982, she wrote and directed a film called Losing Ground. It was one of the first feature films to be made by an African-American woman. It was and continues to be considered a groundbreaking cinematic achievement; portraying the life of a black female academic. A type of character not commonly represented in film. Unfortunately, in 1988, Collins died of breast cancer. She was only 46. At the time of her death, she had several projects in the works including plays and what would have been her first novel. Collins’ archives were left to her daughter, Nina Lorez Collins, who sorted through the works left behind. Because of her efforts, in 2016, this wonderful collection of short stories, Whatever Happened To Interracial Love, was released.
This book, containing 16 stories, is immediately engaging. It begins with Exteriors, in which the main character acts as stage-director: setting the scene, making sure the lighting is just right, honing in on the characters, hinting at possible conflict. From there the book opens up to a wide array of narratives. In The Uncle we witness love weighed down by disillusionment. In When Love Withers All Of Life Cries we are forced to acknowledge that relationships require work, communication, and courage. In Lifeline we see how cutting certain ties to the past can lead to love and happiness in the present. In Dead Memories…Dead Dreams we’re introduced to an eccentric family, tied together by a ghost. And in the title story, Whatever Happened To Interracial Love, we observe how one woman’s personal life is deeply affected by the civil rights movement. Each of the stories in the collection carries its own weight, drawing on various themes, such as, love, family, race, ambition, death, control, and perception. Although each story is unique, they are arranged beautifully in this book. One flows into the next seamlessly, presenting a robust depiction of the African-American experience. An experience that combines tragedy and humor, commonalities and idiosyncrasies. It truly is a gift that over 30 years after her death, Kathleen Collins’ amazing talent has been rediscovered. I highly recommend this selection.
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