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Charis welcomes Mecca Jamilah Sullivan in conversation with Beverly Guy-Sheftall for a celebration of Big Girl. Exquisitely compassionate and witty, Big Girl traces the intergenerational hungers and desires of Black womanhood, as told through the unforgettable voice of Malaya Clondon.
In her highly anticipated debut novel, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan explores the perils—and undeniable beauty—of insatiable longing.
Growing up in a rapidly changing Harlem, eight-year-old Malaya hates when her mother drags her to Weight Watchers meetings; she’d rather paint alone in her bedroom or enjoy forbidden street foods with her father. For Malaya, the pressures of her predominantly white Upper East Side prep school are relentless, as are the expectations passed down from her painfully proper mother and sharp-tongued grandmother. As she comes of age in the 1990s, she finds solace in the music of Biggie Smalls and Aaliyah, but her weight continues to climb—until a family tragedy forces her to face the source of her hunger, ultimately shattering her inherited stigmas surrounding women’s bodies, and embracing her own desire. Written with vibrant lyricism shot through with tenderness, Big Girl announces Sullivan as an urgent and vital voice in contemporary fiction.
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Ph.D. is the author of the novel Big Girl (W.W. Norton & Co./ Liveright) a 2022 most anticipated pick fromVulture, Ms, Goodreads and SheReads.com. Her previous books are The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora (University of Illinois Press, 2021), and the short story collection, Blue Talk and Love (2015), winner of the Judith Markowitz Award for Fiction from Lambda Literary. She is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University. A native of Harlem, she currently lives in Washington, DC.
Beverly Guy-Sheftall is a Black feminist scholar, writer, and editor, who is the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies and English at Spelman College, in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the founding director of the Spelman College Women's Research and Resource Center, the first at a historically Black college or university. Guy-Sheftall has published a number of texts within African American and Women’s Studies which include the first anthology on Black women’s literature, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature (Doubleday, 1979), which she coedited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith; her dissertation, Daughters of Sorrow: Attitudes Toward Black Women, 1880-1920 (Carlson, 1991); Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought (New Press, 1995); an anthology she coedited with Rudolph P. Byrd entitled Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality (Indiana University Press, 2001). Her most recent publication is a coauthored monograph (with Johnnetta Betsch Cole), Gender Talk: The Struggle for Equality in African American Communities, which was published by Random House in 2003. Upcoming publications include an anthology of Audre Lorde’s writings (with Rudolph P. Byrd and Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Oxford University Press); a new edition of But Some of Us Are Brave (with Stanlie James and Frances Foster, Feminist Press); and a collection of writings on the race/gender debate during the 2008 U.S. presidential election (with Johnnetta Betsch Cole, SUNY Press).
This event is free and open to all people, especially to those who have no income or low income right now, but we encourage and appreciate a solidarity donation in support of the work of Charis Circle, our programming non-profit. Charis Circle's mission is to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices. https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/CharisCircle?code=chariscirclepage
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Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
A Phenomenal Book Club Pick
TIME • Best Books of the Month
New York Times • Editors’ Choice
Vulture • Most Anticipated Books 2022
Goodreads • Hot and Fresh: 60 Highly Anticipated Debut Novels
Ms. Magazine • Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest of Us 2022
From Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange, and Bessie Head, to Zanele Muholi, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Missy Elliott, Black women writers and artists across the African Diaspora have developed nuanced and complex creative forms. Mecca Jamilah Sullivan ventures into the unexplored spaces of black women’s queer creative theorizing to learn its languages and read the textures of its forms.
The timeless and essential anthology of Black Feminist thought--showing that Black women have always understood the need for feminism to be intersectional
Audre Lorde was not only a famous poet; she was also one of the most important radical black feminists of the past century.
This is a valuable project. The editors are excellent, well-known scholars, and activists in the academy. --Darlene Clark Hine