Callaloo and Other Lesbian Love Tales by LaShonda K. Barnett

Publisher/Date:  New Victoria Publishers, Oct. 1999
Genre(s):  Short Story, Romance
Pages:  123

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Stories of love, loss and affection are finely written in CALLALOO &OTHER LESBIAN LOVE TALES. LaShonda K. Barnett book consists of 17 tasty morsels, each one portraying a distinct flavor of black lesbian love.

All of the tales are written realistically and with passion and soul, and cross various eras, locations and cultural variations for their inspiration. From the late 1950s to the present, Barnett presents these sensuous journeys that travel straight to the heart.

In the first story, “The Homecoming of Narda Boggs,” it’s 1959 Texas, and Jeannie Mae has fallen for the boss’ daughter, discovering that being with Narda is much more exciting than being with her beau, Booker. “Rituals” finds Nella and Muriel more settled with each other in their old age, while Lilah finds her cinematic muse with Kelsea, a white woman she tries hard not to love.

“Miss Hannah’s Lesson” is one of the highlights of Callaloo, and it beautifully portrays the love between a house slave named Sarah and her mistress, Miss Hannah. Hannah cares so much for Sarah she helps the girl learn to read in spite of the trouble it could cause. Through Sarah’s teachings, their love develops so effortlessly despite the differences in their skin color and stations in life.

Every sound has Lily “Remembering Hortense,” and food takes on a passionate meaning in “Breakfast with Dinah.” Shawn can’t play the fool anymore in “The Telephone Call,” while Dorie’s fascination with gay symbols in “Black Triangles, Rainbows and Dykes” helps her figure out whom she is.

Another highlight of Callaloo is the story “Meatloaf,” a woman who agonizes over her lover’s death, but realizes that life with Carmen wasn’t a walk in the park. She relives the pain of living with an alcoholic lover, and decides that she’s been grieving over Carmen far before her tragic death.

A girlfriend’s illness brings a couple closer together in “New Kid on the Block,” and “It Happened One Sunday Afternoon: A True Story” that a young girl falls for a much older woman despite what the world thinks. And Lynn gets a sensuous surprise when her girlfriend unexpectedly shows up in “Tennessee.”

“Losing Sight of Lavender” is a poignant tale about Sael, a lesbian in a HIV-positive support group coming to terms with her mortality. Going to her meetings helps her to reminisce on her life and hope for a better tomorrow despite the prognosis she’s been given.

“Bitter Wine” finds Leta rekindling a friendship with a childhood friend, while an anonymous couple recalls how they met in a “Conversation at Lucy’s.” Death takes its toll “When Sunny Gets Blue,” and a Linda brings a taste of home to her lover with a pot of “Callaloo,” the title story.

Barnett does an excellent job with Callaloo and these adoring tales. It shows the many forms love can take, and just how we all can’t live without a taste.

Reviewed February 2006

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