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The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
Cover of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
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The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions. There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who has a crush on the preacher's wife. At forty-two, Lyra realizes that her discomfort with her own body stands between her and a new love. As Y2K looms, Caroletta's "same time next year" arrangement with her childhood best friend is tenuous. A serial mistress lays down the ground rules for her married lovers. In the dark shadows of a hospice parking lot, grieving strangers find comfort in each other. With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions. There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who has a crush on the preacher's wife. At forty-two, Lyra realizes that her discomfort with her own body stands between her and a new love. As Y2K looms, Caroletta's "same time next year" arrangement with her childhood best friend is tenuous. A serial mistress lays down the ground rules for her married lovers. In the dark shadows of a hospice parking lot, grieving strangers find comfort in each other. With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.
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About the Author-
  • Deesha Philyaw's writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, McSweeney's, the Rumpus, Brevity, TueNight, and elsewhere. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, she currently lives in Pittsburgh with her daughters.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 22, 2020
    Philyaw’s triumphant debut collection follows a series of Southern black women as they struggle for self-determination. In “Eula,” 40-year-old Caroletta meets her childhood friend and fellow church member Eula in a motel room to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Both single ladies have yet to find what they need from men, and one still considers herself a virgin despite the two of them having had trysts for decades. That night, they preserve a semblance of respectability (“You outdid yourself,” Eula tells Caroletta, about a potato salad she’d made), while licking sparkling wine from one another. In “Peach Cobbler,” Olivia recounts her mother’s affair with a pastor who would come to the house when Olivia was five and whom she equated with God (“God was an old fat man, like a Black Santa, and I imagined my mother’s peach cobbler contributing to his girth”). While Philyaw occasionally gets ahead of herself, as in “Jael,” about a teenage girl who takes revenge on a 35-year-old sexual predator (the slim story loses power from its multiple point-of-view shifts), for the most part she soars, notably in “How to Make Love to a Physicist,” about a woman’s liberation from generations of body hatred. Philyaw’s stories inform and build on one another, turning her characters’ private struggles into a beautiful chorus. Agent: Danielle Chiotti, Upstart Crow Literary.

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Deesha Philyaw
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