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The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

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At forty-two, Lyra realizes that her discomfort with her own body stands between her and a new love. Judgments are passed on them through the conservatism of their church, but also by their families and society at large.

This is the kind of acclaim that most books—much less a short-story collection, much less a debut, much less a debut collection published by a university press—never receive. The women who are often backbones of their communities, but afterthoughts when it comes time to celebrate, pay homage, or honor. The Secret Lives of Church Ladiesexplores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. More than one of the nine stories features lesbian love, whether two grown women or a girl with a crush on her male pastor’s wife.

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. The churches Philyaw grew up attending—African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Pentecostal, Church of God in Christ—all forbid sex before marriage. These are an emotionally satisfying, astonishing, and joyous set of intimate, complex and personal stories to immerse yourself in, from a talented author that will make you laugh and cry, with characters you can invest in, their strength, resilience, vulnerabilities, and bravery. The connections between these women and their lovers, their mothers, and their siblings are explored so intimately, without a single wasted word. But truly all of them had astute observations of womanhood, complex relationships between mothers and daughters, love and the church.

There are several women, however, who leap from that thin line of grace out to freedom in Deesha Philyaw's stunning first collection of stories, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.And the girl whose mother regularly shares peach cobbler and herself with their married male pastor.

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