Blue Talk and Love tells the stories of girls and women of color navigating the moods and mazes of urban daily life. Set in various enclaves of New York City—including the middle-class Hamilton Heights section of Harlem, the black queer social world of the West Village, the Spanish-speaking borderland between Harlem and Washington Heights, and historic Tin Pan Alley—the collection uses magic realism, historical fiction, satire and more to highlight young black women's inner lives. The storylines range widely: a big-bodied teenage girl from Harlem discovers her sexuality in the midst of racial tensions at her Upper East Side school; four young women from Newark, New Jersey, are charged with assaulting the man who threatens to rape them; a pair of conjoined black female twins born into slavery, make their fame as stage performers in the Big City. In each story, the characters push past what is expected of them, learning to celebrate their voices and their lives.
PRAISE FOR BLUE TALK AND LOVE
"Mecca Jamilah Sullivan’s Blue Talk and Love is a crossing—as all transformative fiction is—over difficult and fearsome terrains. From the world of seven New Jersey queer black girls traversing the streets of the West Village and defending themselves against a homophobic low life in “Wolfpack”; to the 19th century “freak” world of “We-Chrissie” and “We-Millie,” the conjoined twins in “A Strange People”; through “Saturday” at Ms. Adelaide’s morning weight-loss meeting that demeans the overweight eight-year old Malaya; in the rural Ethiopian compound of an ensemble of young people in “Sererie,” coping with their losses and coming of age through the narrative banter of their “qene”; and all over Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Upper East Side of Manhattan in “Snow Fight,” “Powder and Smoke,” “A Magic of Bags,” and the title story, “Blue Talk and Love.” Sullivan’s prose shocks, intrigues, and transports us through fourteen artful and unique stories. And so do her rich and inimitable characters, most of them young black women struggling in a world they did not make but one they must confront, tear down, and remake. Black girls matter and Sullivan shows us just how much."
-- Cheryl Clarke, author of The Days of Good Looks: Prose and Poetry, 1980-2005 , Living as a Lesbian (poetry)
"Mecca Jamilah Sullivan's debut collection of fiction dazzles with images, language and heart. She slips inside her characters and renders their inner lives with painterly precision so with each story we enter a complete world drawn with brilliant colour and raw emotion. Yet it is the mystery of life itself which she evokes so strongly and that holds us fast."
-- Jewelle Gomez, author of The Gilda Stories
"In a prose as rich and sumptuous as brocade, these stories hit with the the force of primal myths. They can be tender, they can be funny, and they can shock. This is a book that grabs you low on the spinal column and rattles your teeth together. Sullivan is a powerful and impressive writer."
-- Samuel R. Delany, author of Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders
“This is a story that matters, so listen,” begins Mecca Jamilah Sullivan’s powerful debut story collection—or is this remarkable work best described as elegiac blues—gifting, in the words of the character Verniece, “a new kind of hearing, a new kind of seeing.” Combining the personal, the historical and the current socio-physical and economic realities of the players too often pitched at the periphery of American life, Sullivan’s characters have much to say. The little boy, who wonders if he’ll ever turn into a lion, and Aldóvar, a Chilean carving out a new home on Manhattan’s upper east side, page-punch you, seizing your heart in a tight fist. From brown-skinned women “wide as refridgerators” with purple and orange extensions to women of the Harlem Grange Homeowners’ Council to “Wall Women,” a feminist coda epigrammed by Virginia Woolf,Blue Talk and Love stuns with subtle imagery, powerful linguistic energy, and chiseled, innovative control. We’ve been looking but not seeing—certainly not hearing. With Sullivan’s Blue Talk and Love, here’s your chance to listen.
–- LaShonda Katrice Barnett, author of Jam on the Vine
"Tender, blunt, joyous, angry, indomitable—these are a few words to describe the characters inhabiting Mecca Sullivan’s deeply felt first collection. Humanity is defined and redefined by women who strive not only to survive, but to flourish, motivated by one of literature’s greatest ingredients: yearning. “We are women whose names mean things,” one character informs us. Reading Sullivan’s stories, we are struck by the layers of meaning and emotional honesty abiding in those very words."
-- Carolyn Ferrell, author of Don't Erase Me