(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“His white face floats in a sea of black protest. It is a time that calls forth the most picturesque of metaphors, for we are swimming along in the underbelly of America..there where it is soft and prickly, where you may rub your nose against the grainy sands of illusion and come up bleeding. “
It’s 1963 Mississippi and a white freedom fighter from Boston falls in love with a black woman. “We are in the year of racial, religious, and ethnic mildew.”
“Idealism came back in style. People got along for a while. Inside the melting pot. “
However we all know it wouldn’t last. “Whatever Happened To Interracial Love” is only one exceptional piece of fiction in this never-released collection of short stories by the late playwright Kathleen Collins, who herself was a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s.
Here is just a sampling of the many exceptional stories included in the collection:
“Broken Spirit” tells of a woman’s relationship with an opinionated self-destructive journalist from South Africa. The ending will surprise you.
In “The Happy Family”, a girl is jealous of her friend’s family, the only happy family she knew. But what is happiness and at what cost does one have to pay for it?
“Dead Memories…Dead Dreams” demonstrates the confusion of a young girl whose mother died before she could remember and the family that won’t accept her dark-skinned father .
There are around fifteen intimate stories. Each one is so different while still timeless. It was so hard to pick a favorite, so I won’t. Some I wished were longer, though. Collins approached many of the stories in a “matter-of-fact” , objective tone in the first person which magnifies the impact.
Collins wrote in delectable prose. Through the stories she dealt with issues of race, gender and love while avoiding the typical stereotypes. Some stories will require an additional read.
Collins died in 1988 from breast cancer at the age of 46. Unfortunately I’m sure she had more stories in her that we could have learned from.