Because I apparently have nothing else to do, other than you know, writing a dissertation, teaching two classes, and keeping my girlfriend happy, I’ve started working on a collection of short stories. Well, I’ve picked up the manuscripts I put down a while back.  All, if not most, will feature Black lesbian protagonists. Why, you ask? Because Toni Morrison said so and I quote: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

While there are a certainly good collections of Black lesbian long and short fiction circulating, there aren’t nearly enough. I love Fiona Zedde and Skyy, and I’ve written about Jewelle Gomez, Ann Allen Shockley, and Cheril N. Clarke on my blog and in my academic work.  I’ve been writing fiction and creative non-fiction for several years now, although I’ve rarely shared it with anyone, much less tried to publish it.  I’ve decided that it’s finally time to add my meager scribblings to the cacophony of Black lesbian literary voices that are already out there, and that inspire me to tell my stories.

The story I’m currently working on is entitled “Addicted,” and no, it’s not about sex! It’s actually about a woman who finds out that her partner has a gambling problem. I’ll share an excerpt soon.

Where will I find the time to write you ask? Well, as busy as I am, I still have small chunks of time where I’m able to do a bit of creative writing. I’ve also set up a reward system that seems to be working: I “gift” myself writing time when I’ve completed my other tasks and reached my academic writing goals for the day/week. I also keep a mean schedule and I’ve also learned to say “no” to random requests and engagements that I just don’t want to participate in or can’t make time for. Don’t worry, I’m still pretty visible on campus and I do my share of graduate committee work, but I’ve learned to be a bit more protective of my time and productive energy.

I’m excited and terrified, but I’m as committed to telling these stories as I am to finishing this Ph.D., and those of you that know me personally know how committed I am to that. My goal has always been to “work my program” (my apologies to Cheryl Dunye), and that is exactly what I’m doing. Still, I’m pretty stoked to begin work on this other project, and I hope you’ll hop on this train with me. I think it’s going to be an exciting ride.

Peace and productivity,

Sista Outsider

Don’t Explain: A Review

Jewelle Gomez: Don’t Explain (1998) Firebrand Books

Don’t Explain is a collection of short stories by Black lesbian author, activist, and philanthropist Jewelle Gomez. In fact, it was the first collection of Black lesbian fiction I read in graduate school.  Most widely known for her Black lesbian vampire novel The Gilda Stories, with Don’t Explain Gomez employs rich, sensual language to introduce her readers to several carefully constructed characters that set our minds and bodies afire.

For example, “Water With the Wine” is a new take on an old trope, the May-December romance. Gomez carefully deconstructs the most commonly held notions about this type of romance, and posits another reality for the women in her story. Her two main characters meet and become involved at an academic conference; however, differences in age, class and race threaten to destroy their budding relationship. Gomez deals sensitively and honestly with these issues and deepens our understanding of what it means to fall in love after the blossom of youth.

In “Lynx and Strand,” the longest story in the collection, Gomez forays into speculative fiction, (not quite science fiction, not quite fantasy, but an imaginative blend of the two genres), and explores what it means to live in a future where same-sex relationships are still policed by the state. Here, Gomez tackles issues of futuristic state governments, homophobia, body art, and what it means to truly become one with your partner.

For those familiar with Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, Don’t Explain offers a new chapter into the life of her lesbian vampire and offers a provocative look at what it means to be human when you actually aren’t human at all.

All of the stories in this collection are sensitive, sensual and offer a pleasant alternative to “mainstream” lesbian fictions.  If you haven’t had an opportunity to read any of Jewelle Gomez’s work, start with this collection and I’m certain that you’ll want to read more!