Deesha Philyaw

Cindy Seip

Deesha Philyaw’s writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. Her debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (West Virginia University Press), won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. It explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and enjoy a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories presented 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 14-year-old Jael, who has a crush on the preacher’s wife; Lyra, whose discomfort with her own body at 42 stands between her and love; and a serial mistress laying down the ground rules for her married lovers. Kirkus celebrated the book as a “collection of luminous stories populated by deeply moving and multifaceted characters. … Tender, fierce, proudly black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.”