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LaShonda K. Barnett
Writer, Ph.D. Candidate

Kansas City-native LaShonda K. Barnett identifies as a writer and scholar.  LaShonda grew up in Park Forest, Illinois, where she discovered an affinity for writing, reading, and foreign languages at an early age.  Her writings have appeared in numerous anthologies.  In October of 1999, her first book Callaloo & Other Lesbian Love Tales was published by New Victoria Press.  She is currently at work on her first novel entitled JAM!    She has taught Women's Literature and African American Literature at the University of Richmond and Hampton University in Virginia.

LaShonda holds a B.A. in English Literature and Language Studies from the UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI and an M.A. in Women's History from SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE.   An SREB doctoral scholar in the American Studies Program at the College of William and Mary, her fields of specialization include: African American Literature, African American History, African American Performance Studies (specifically 'Jazz Studies') and U.S. Women's History.  Her dissertation is tentatively titled: "'I Got Thunder (And It Rings)': Afrodiasporic 'Voicing' in the Music of Abbey Lincoln, Cassandra Wilson and Nina Simone."

LaShonda currently lives in Manhattan with her companion, Wyclef.  When not writing or researching she explores the world's greatest city!

Published in Celebrate! Key West. January 7, 2000

Are you all ready? I'm about to start the new millennium by saying the unsayable. Maybe I shouldn't, but I've been thinking the unthinkable for a long time, and the beginning of the third thousand years is as good a time as any to "fess up."

A new genre of writing has evolved over these past couple of decades-- lesbian literature-- and the majority of it just isn't all that good.

There! Are the lynch mobs en route yet? Soon? Well, it's darn politically incorrect, I know, but it really is true. As feminists, we encouraged every woman to know that her story is worth telling. And cheered her on when she told it. And I agree totally with that concept. Every woman has something important and meaningful and real to say, and every woman deserves the opportunity to say it. And women can and ought to learn by listening to each others' stories.

But that's feminist psychology and feminist politics. Literary standards are ultimately a thing apart from politics or psychology; and when it comes to writing really good literature, few of the popular lesbian authors today make the mark.

That's not to say, mind you, that their books aren't worth reading. They are. Very much so. But their value comes from the fact that the characters are lesbians, the situations are ones with which lesbians are familiar, the problems, the relationships are our own. That makes for interesting reading, but not necessarily great literature.

The reason for my own personal courage in admitting this now is that I recently stumbled upon a new lesbian author whose writing did cause my literary antenna to stand up and start buzzing. LaShonda K. Barnett, a 25 year-old graduate student at The College of William & Mary in Virginia, has real promise. If her first book, Callaloo, published by New Victoria Press, is any indication of her talent, LaShonda is one writer we need to keep our eyes on.
Callaloo & Other Lesbian Love Tales is an enchanting collection of 17 short pieces written "...with the sole purpose of giving a voice to the women we rarely hear," says the author, "...let alone read about: like older, rural black lesbians, women with health challenges, women whose daily lives meet the task of coping with a grief that could consume even the strongest." If that was LaShonda Barnett's objective, she succeeded admirably.

"Rituals," one my favorites, begins with Nella leaning back " her second-hand rocking chair as she wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her wrinkled black hand.

"Muriel, Nella's friend, sat on the same porch in a relatively new wicker chair with bright floral pillows neatly placed behind her small back." Can you see them? I could and was immediately drawn into sharing a moment of their life together. Barnett goes on to tell us "Both women were old. Both women had been young once and in love with each other. Their youth escaped them-- their love had not."

LaShonda, a native of Kansas City, grew up in Park Forest, Illinois. She began writing as a child and "...was initially drawn to writing because it was a way for me to construct another reality. After I came out, " LaShonda continues, "I had a difficult time finding lesbian literature that reflected experiences like my own. It was not long before I began writing the stories I was in search of."
Each of the vignettes included in this collection reflects a small slice of life. Each is told from the view point of a unique lesbian character. Yet each appeals to, and holds meaning for, people of every shape, size, age, color, or condition. LaShonda states that she " hopeful that my book reaches a wide audience-- not just gays and lesbians. After all, our experiences, our lifestyles are not different except when viewed through the eyes of bigotry."




Callaloo n. (1) A leafy caribbean vegetable. (2) The word has come to be used in everyday Creole talk to denote the bringing together or a mixture - of food, of language, of people, or of culture.

New Victoria Publishers, Norwich VT 05055
ISBN 1-892281-08-2
"I wanted to stay lost in the power, the beauty, the adventure, the sensual journey of mighty woman love that LaShonda Barnett has created with these stories. This book is a visceral glimpse of Black Lesbian lives/a remembering and celebration that we've long waited for!"
Sharon Bridgforth, author, the bull-jean stories (Redbone Press, 1998).

"LaShonda K. Barnett has gifts to give us-- sensual, historical, loving. Callaloo, her first book, is the start of a wonderful journey of telling."

Joan Nestle, author, Other Countries

Cover Art by Brenda Michelle Morris ©2001

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