c.2016, W.W. Norton                         $25.95 / $33.95 Canada                      284 pages

miss-jane

Your mother called it an “angel’s kiss.”

Ugh. Lots of people are born with birthmarks or unique features but you saw yours as a flaw and you hated it for years. Slowly, though, you came to embrace it, to see it as something that sets you apart, and now you wouldn’t erase it for the world. As in the new novel, “Miss Jane” by Brad Watson, it’s a part of who you are.

In her later years, Jane wasn’t afraid of anything. Oh, sure, she didn’t care much for horses or bodies of water until her father taught her differently, years ago, but grown up, she was fearless. She just lived her life by her Mississippi garden, unafraid, and vexed by but accustomed to the incontinence she’d endured since the day she was born.

Jane’s mother was too old to be having another baby back then and everybody knew it, especially Ida Chisolm. It was 1915, and Ida had already lost enough children so she wasn’t putting too much stock in the life of this’un. When Jane was born with something wrong down there, Ida blamed herself for a good long time, and never really did cozy up to her youngest daughter.

Because of that, Grace, the oldest daughter and the only Chisolm child left at home, was saddled with babysitting. It rankled her; everything did, in fact, and even though she was barely old enough to be in school, she knew right then that motherhood was not for her. Even at that tender age, Grace couldn’t wait to get away.

When Jane was born, Sylvester Chisolm was unsure what to call his child. Clearly, she was a daughter but something was wrong. Still, though men of his day never fussed much about babies, Chisolm took particular delight in his youngest. He taught her about trees and birds, how to fish, and how to be self-sufficient. She’d need that.

For many years after Dr. Thompson helped Jane into the world, he kept an eye on her. He advised her, taught her about her body, and counseled her when she started noticing boys. He was her friend.

And when Jane was old enough for the truth, he told her…

Here’s a challenge for you this fall: find a book that’s as beautiful as “Miss Jane.”

Wait, don’t bother. It’s impossible.

From almost the first page of this story of a hard-scrabble life, you’ll find yourself basking in words that set difficulty awash in lushness. Based on a real person, author Brad Watson’s Jane is a dutiful daughter, smart and a little too nosy, and remarkably unabashed about her physical anomaly – at least, at first. Watson wisely allows his character to mature, both in body and in mind, which inevitably leads to the sweetest, loveliest bust-your-heart-in-tiny-pieces passages you may ever read.

Be aware that parts of this book may make you squirm, if you a sensitive type but mostly, you’ll just float on the sentences inside this book. Start “Miss Jane” and kiss your afternoon goodbye.

miss-jane-author-credit-nell-hanley

A Romantic Comedy About Love Shared Between African American Gay Men

By John Stein

Don’t Marry Griff tells the story of Lyodell Archer and best friend Sutton Brown as their friendship is shaken to its core once Sutton confesses his love for Lyodell. Things get even more complicated because he does it as Lyodell is about to wed his fiancé, Griffith Lowell. dont-marry-griff

“It’s a romantic comedy about love shared between African American men,” explains director Steven L. Coard, who also stars in the film.  “I have always dreamed of the day when I could produce my own independent film for the gay African American community. I aim to create unique and original stories that will hopefully unite our community.”

Coard intends for Don’t Marry Griff to be the first of a series of movies that tackle love stories of gay African American characters.  “It’s important for African American gay men to have characters they can identify with while being entertained,” he says.

“I think most gay black men are striving to achieve the American Dream. I  know I want that white picket fence.  Although I am not looking for the children part,” he adds with a grin.

In addition to Coard, Don’t Marry Griff  stars Chris DeLoatch and JR Rolley.

Coard had DeLoatch in mind for the role of Sutton when writing the film.  “I had seen him in the web series, ‘Bait’. He plays a psycho killer in the show but I saw a genuine goodness in him.”

The character of Sutton is the type of guy everyone dreams about being with one day.  He’s honest with a sense of humor.  He’s confident, courageous, communicative, a natural leader who listens and takes initiative.  He’s not afraid to go after what he wants and most importantly, he stands up to Griffith in the film and provides Lyodell a safe haven.

Coard originally had another actor in the role of Griffith, but as so often happens in independent filmmaking, two weeks before filming was set to begin, the actor dropped out. Coard was left scrambling to find someone to replace him.  DeLoatch recommended he consider JR Rolley, an actor known for playing  lovable guy-next-door roles.  Coard was doubtful as the role of Griffith called for a type-A, bad-ass personality.  “Despite my hesitation, I brought JR in to read for the part. I immediately saw the passion in his eyes and that he was very prepared and looking for a character opposite from the pretty boy roles he usually plays.”

All seemed to be back on track with filming, until the actor confirmed to play Lyodell unexpectedly dropped out, too.  Pressed for time, Coard decided to take on the role himself.  “I had wanted to focus on working behind the camera as executive producer and director but things don’t always work out the way you plan,” he laughs.  “I sucked it up and and called in my acting chops to start working again.”

Don’t Marry Griff is being distributed by Color of Love Production Studios, an award winning production company that specializes in creating stories about the LGBTQ community of color.  The studio strives to  focus on unique issues of relevance to the gay African American identity.

“The wonderful thing about Don’t Marry Griff is that viewers do not need to be African American and gay to enjoy it,” says Coard.  “Anyone who has experienced a toxic relationship can relate to the film.  It entertains and is educational as well.   I won’t give away the ending but I will tell you, in Don’t Marry Griff , karma is a beeeotch.”

For more information, visit https://colorofloveproduction.com.

 

By Tom Tietjen

 

In her debut novel, author Gabriella Meghan writes a captivating story of romance and murder, set in a small-town lesbian community.

as-told-by-us-coverAS TOLD BY US tells the story of Layla, who, after four years of being bullied in high school, seeks to discover herself and come to terms with her true identity.  She quickly becomes the town’s “It Girl”, experiencing love and lust as she weaves her way in and out of relationships with an assortment of young women.  But just as she is thriving in her newfound freedom, a string of mysterious suicides among her inner circle of friends threatens to lead Layla toward a twisted journey of undeniable fate.

The story is based on author Gabriella Meghan’s own experiences, living and loving in a world she describes as harsh, chaotic and malicious. It explores a darker side of the lesbian community that many may be surprised to learn about: rampant with sex, addiction and mental illness.

Do you worry  As Told By Us may give a negative impression of the lesbian community?

Gabriella Meghan: I like to think that the book is eye-opening to the realities individuals within the community face everyday.

Would you say its true-to-life?

Gabriella Meghan:It is certainly true to life of the community I experienced. The community I experienced was very small and dysfunctional.

Why do you think that was? 

Gabriella Meghan: My theory is that LGBTQ people have learned to hide who they are by lying to loved ones for fear of being an outcast. We’ve become better at lying and hiding things, and that makes it easier to be malicious.

Did you base your main character, Layla, on yourself? 

Gabriella Meghan: Layla’s experiences and life are strongly based on my own. Layla and I both went through many changes and obstacles in our late teens and early twenties including divorce, coming out, rebelling, struggling with an eating disorder, being in and breaking free from an abusive relationship, death of friends and more.

Are Layla’s lovers based on your real life lovers? 

Gabriella Meghan: Yes, very much so. I based the character of Jade off an extremely toxic yet passionate relationship I was in. It was abusive in more ways than one, and I didn’t realize it while I was in it. I only started to realize the abuse and the intensity of it once I began therapy a few years down the road. A lot of my fears, anxieties, and insecurities stem back to her.

Does your ex still control you?

Gabriella Meghan: It was that kind of relationship where no matter how much time goes by, if I see her today, I know she will have an immediate hold on my soul.  But I realize I can control those feelings, acknowledge them, and move forward with my life in a positive manner. In a way I am thankful to have had a Jade in my life. I learned a lot of valuable lessons, I became stronger, and I learned that I am capable of accomplishing anything. I have forgiven that person and moved on to a healthy relationship and happy life.

Did you find writing the book to be therapeutic?

Gabriella Meghan: As Told By Us was my therapy before therapy! Before ever seeking out a therapist to talk to, I wrote.  The book allowed me to tackle the demons of that period of my life. It allowed me to self-reflect, which I think is so incredibly important in order to grow into a better person.

What are your feelings today about the lesbian community?

Gabriella Meghan: There are times I miss the chaos, and there are times that I am thankful I made it out in one piece. This past year I travelled to a lot of the United States, met tons of new people, and learned the lesbian community is so much bigger than what I experienced in my small town. Its restored my faith in the community.

What do you hope readers take away from As Told By Us? 

Gabriella Meghan: I think it is important that we talk about the hardships that many LGBTQ youth go through with drugs, alcohol and addiction. We shouldn’t pretend these problems don’t exist. Addiction is a serious thing, and we should address it and work together as a community to fight it.

 

Visit http://www.gabriellameghan.com.