In Conversation: Mecca Jamilah Sullivan & Tiphanie Yanique

Wednesday June 10, 2015
07:00 pm

Tags: Event





Photo Credit: Debbie Grossman (Yanique)

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan and Tiphanie Yanique came together to discuss Sullivan's new short story collection, Blue Talk and Love.


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.


Blue Talk and Love’s "voice, despite material that seems frankly contemporary, is paradoxically lyrical, nearly Faulknerian." - Rick Moody, American Short Fiction Short Story Contest judge


"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 Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women


Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is the author of the short story collection Blue Talk and Love. Born and raised in Harlem, New York, she has received the Charles Johnson Fiction Award, the James Baldwin Memorial Playwriting Award, and honors and support from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Yaddo colony, American Short Fiction, Glimmer Train, the Hedgebrook retreat, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Center for Fiction, where she completed the draft of her collection as a 2011 Emerging Writers fellow. Her writing has appeared in Callaloo, Best New Writing, American Fiction: Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, Feminist Studies,, the, and The Feminist Wire, where she is Associate Editor for Arts & Culture. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, and is Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where her research explores subversive poetics in women's literature of the African diaspora. She is currently completing a novel about food, fat, gender and class in contemporary American families. 


Tiphanie Yanique’s first novel, Land of Love and Drowning was published by Riverhead/Penguin in 2014. Land of Love and Drowning won the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnam First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction. Tiphanie is also the author of How to Escape from a Leper Colony, published by Graywolf Press in 2010 and the picture book I Am the Virgin Islands, published by Little Bell Caribbean in 2012. BookPage listed her as one of the 14 Women to watch out for in 2014. Tiphanie has won the 2011 BOCAS Prize for Caribbean FictionBoston Review Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, and an Academy of American Poet’s Prize. She has been listed by the Boston Globe as one of the sixteen cultural figures to watch out for and by the National Book Foundation as one of the 5 Under 35. Her writing has been published in Best African American FictionThe Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, More Magazine, American Short Fiction and other places. Tiphanie Yanique is also the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship.