So begins Upstate, a powerful story told through letters between seventeen-year-old Antonio and his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, Natasha, set in the 1990's in New York. Antonio and Natasha's world is turned upside down, and their young love is put to the test, when Antonio finds himself in jail, accused of a shocking crime. Antonio fights to stay alive on the inside, while on the outside, Natasha faces choices that will change her life. Over the course of a decade, they share a desperate correspondence. Often, they have only each other to turn to as life takes them down separate paths and leaves them wondering if they will ever find their way back together.
Startling, real, and filled with raw emotion, Upstate is an unforgettable coming-of-age story with a message of undeniable hope. Brilliant and profoundly felt, it is destined to speak to a new generation of readers.
Kalisha Buckhanon was born in Kankakee, Illinois in 1977. She has been the recipient of awards and fellowships from the NAACP, Andrew Mellon Fund, Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Young Authors Commission, Mary Roberts Rhinehart Fund and the Chicago Black Writer's Conference. Her work has appeared in such publications as Michigan Quarterly Review and Warpland: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New School University and a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. She has taught literacy and writing to children on Chicago's South Side, in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Upstate is her first novel.
Eloise “Lou” Hansen is graduating from Columbia University summa cum laude, and she's ready to conquer the world. Just a few minor problems: she has no job, no prospects, and she’s moving back into her childhood bedroom. Lou is grimly determined to stick to a rigorous schedule to get a job and get out of her parents’ house. Shelly “Mama Shell” Hansen, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and just as determined to keep her at home. Who else will help her hide her latest binge-shopping purchases from her husband, go to SoulCycle with her, and hold her hand during Botox shots?
Smothered is a hilarious roman à clef told via journal entries, text messages, emails, bills, receipts, tweets, doctor’s prescriptions, job applications and rejections, parking tickets, and pug pictures, chronicling the year that Lou moves back home after college. Told from Lou’s point-of-view, Smothered tells the story of two young(ish) women, just trying to get it right, and learning that just because we all grow up doesn’t mean we necessarily have to grow old. (After all, what is Juvaderm for?)
He lives in Montedidio—God’s Mountain—a cluster of alleys in the heart of Naples. He brings a paycheck home every Saturday from Mast’Errico’s carpentry workshop where he sweeps the floor. He is on his way to becoming a man—his boy’s voice is abandoning him. His wooden boomerang is neither toy nor tool, but something in between. Then there is Maria, the thirteen-year-old girl who lives above him and, like so many girls, is wiser than he. She carries the burden of a secret life herself. She’ll speak to him for the first time this summer. There is also his friendship with a cobbler named Rafaniello, a Jewish refugee who has escaped the horrors of the Holocaust, who has no idea how long he’s been on this earth, and who is said to sprout wings for a blessed few.
It is 1963, a young man’s summer of discovery. A time for a boy with innocent hands and a pure heart to look beyond the ordinary in everyday things to see the far-reaching landscape, and all of its possibilities, from a rooftop terrace on God’s Mountain.
Buckhanon takes us to Chicago, 1992, and into the life of fifteen-year-old Shivana Montgomery, who believes all Black women wind up the same: single and raising children alone, like her mother. Until the sudden visit of her beautiful and free-spirited Aunt Jewel, Shivana spends her days desperately struggling to understand life and the growing pains of her environment. When she accidentally becomes pregnant by an older man and must decide what to do, she begins a journey towards adulthood with only a mysterious voice inside to guide her. When she falls in love with Rasul, a teenager with problems of his own, together they fight to rise above their circumstances and move toward a more positive future. Through the voice of the unborn child and a narrative sweeping from slavery onward, Buckhanon narrates Shivana's connection to a past history of Black women who found themselves at the mercy of tragic circumstances.
Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis, neighborhood punching bag, growing up goofy and mostly fatherless in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. A boy looking for a hero, Joey decides to latch on to Charlie Banks, the all-star third basemen for the New York Giants. But Joey's chosen champion doesn't exactly welcome the extreme attention of a persistent young fan with an overactive imagination. Then again, this strange, needy kid might be exactly what Banks needs.