Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?

Staff Picks: Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?

Reviewed by Anna M., Materials Handler

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins is also available as an ebook and audiobook.

Inclusiveness

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? written by Kathleen Collins is a posthumous collection of elegantly written contemporary short stories that follow the lives of  Black women. Collins was a filmmaker, director, poet, playwright, and civil rights activist. After Collins’ untimely death due to breast cancer at the age of 46, Nina Collins—Kathleen’s daughter—found multiple unpublished short stories in Kathleen’s attic. Delighted by her mother’s raw, passionate yet delicate stories, Nina felt moved to publish the short stories in a collection that would commemorate Kathleen Collins’ life and gift for writing prose. 

I first read Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? during my freshman year of college for my Experimental Blackness class. It was the first time I heard about Kathleen Collins, but it would not be the last. Although reading the novel was a part of an assignment, reading Collins’ collection of short stories was a breath of fresh air. Collins’ work was a mix of the abstract, experimental, traditional narration, and poetry, and was unlike anything I had ever read before. A few years later, during my junior year, it was a part of my English class’s curriculum to attend a reading. By a stroke of luck, Nina Collins lead a reading of Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? in her mother’s honor. Listening to Nina talk about her mother and her mother’s work brought a new appreciation for the text, which I have loved more and more over the years.

The collection explores and provides insight into gender and racial disparities, creating a platform for a much needed conversation about inclusivity. Although Collins filled many shoes, her experience with filmmaking, directing, and writing plays heavily influenced her work, as seen in stories like “Exteriors”, “Conference: Parts I and II”, “Treatment for a Story”, and “When Love Withers All of Life Cries”. “Exteriors”, the frontrunner of the collection, is a three-paged story that delicately follows the buildup of heartbreak. Collins describes the scene like a director, signaling for light, focusing on props, and other tactics used by directors and filmmakers. Although the piece is short, Collins succeeds in creating relatable characters and exposes the hard truth about the end of relationships.

Stories like “How Does One Say,” and “The Happy Family” illuminate the strengths and struggles of a Black woman in modern America. “Documentary Style” cleverly delves into racial and gender issues that have plagued America for centuries. Themes of race, gender, family, and sexuality are aptly woven together to create Collins’ masterpiece. Although her collection was written before the 1980s, her work continues to be relevant and leaves a lasting impression on readers, making it a must-read. 

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.