- Black Girl in Paris (2000)
- Soul Kiss (1997)
- Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery: A Play (1994)
- The Big Mama Stories (1989)
- Talking bones: a play
by Jennifer Austin (SHS)
Shay Youngblood, a novelist, playwright, poet, and author of short stories, was born in 1959 in Columbus, Georgia, and grew up with her grandmother and great aunts. The first time she wrote was due to anger. She was about six or seven, and she was watching TV and a superstar was renting out penthouses for thousands of dollars. She couldn’t see why a person could waste so much money when there are hungry and homeless people in the world.
Shay Youngblood didn’t like school. She never paid attention, so she was always in detention where she loved to read books. In the 1960’s, while she was a child, her mother died; Youngblood was raised in an extended family of women whom she called “Big Mamas.” Youngblood got the idea for her book The Big Mama Stories (Voices from the Gaps) from these women in her life.
She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications from Clark-Atlanta University in 1981. She also received a MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University in 1993. Youngblood has worked as a public information assistant for WETV in Atlanta. She also served as an agriculture information officer with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. She has taught Creative Writing at the Syracuse Community Writer’s Project and play writing at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institution for Women. She has also taught at Brown University plus Creative Writing at the New School for Social Research. During her career Youngblood has received many awards including the Susan Smith Blackburn Playwriting Prize finalist in 1989, a Hollywood NAACP Theater Award in 1991, and the Pushcart Prize. Youngblood has also received other awards such as the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting award, an award from Paul Green Foundation, and an Edward Albee Honoree.
Youngblood currently lives in New York City. She has written two plays: Talking bones and Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery. She began writing novels when she realized that playwriting was very limited. She wanted to express her characters more and add more to her stories. To date she has written two novels, Black Girl in Paris in 2000 and Soul Kiss in 1997. The Big Mama Stories was published in 1989.
The past year Shay Youngblood was the 2002-2003 John & Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. She lived in Oxford, Mississippi, taught Creative Writing at Ole Miss, and participated in numerous workshops and conferences, including the Oxford Conference of the Book and St. Andrews Episcopal School in Jackson’s Creative Writing Workshop.
A Review of Soul Kiss
by Jennifer Austin (SHS)
Soul Kiss is a fascinating novel by Shay Youngblood. She keeps you full of suspense at the end of each chapter. Soul Kiss is about a young girl, Mariah, who is searching for love in her life. At the beginning of the novel, Mariah is seven years old and lives with her mother, Coral, in Manhattan, Kansas, where they have a good life. They move to a small town in Georgia, and Mariah is left with her aunts, Merleen and Faith. While Mariah is being raised by her aunts, she copes with many obstacles in her life. At the age of ten, Mariah finds her mother’s trunk with all of its secrets, including information about her father, who is a painter living in Los Angeles. Mariah refuses to believe that her mother has abandoned her. Days grow into weeks, months, and years, and there is still no sign of Coral. Mariah becomes a headstrong, sexually-curious adolescent.
At the age of fourteen, Mariah deliberately causes trouble for her aunts so that they will agree to let her go live with her father, Mattise. After arriving, Mariah discovers that he doesn’t know anything about parenting. Maria is unaccustomed to the company of a man and has no notion of the appropriate boundaries of familial love. After returning home to Georgia, Mariah finally resolves her feelings about her long absent mother and takes control in the healthy power of language.
The settings for this story are Kansas, Georgia, and Los Angeles. Youngblood has picked extraordinary and ideal settings for the events in the novel. This is a great book that everyone should read. However, the reader should know that the novel does contain some references to sex, which some people may find offensive. However, there is very little profanity–a definite plus with today’s writers. Shay Youngblood is a great artist. Soul Kiss is one of her first novels, and she did a great job. I can’t wait to read her other book.
by Jennifer Austin (SHS)
Jenn: Shay, did any of your stories get rejected? How did you get your first works published?
Shay: When I first began to send out my poems and short stories, I received a lot of rejection letters for my efforts. Sometimes I’d get encouraging notes from editors written in the margins of the form letters. I didn’t give up; I kept sending my work out and eventually my work was published in a few small literary journals and newsletters. I met my first publisher at a book conference. She had seen my work in a magazine and said that she would be interested in looking at my collection of short stories. I only had a few stories completed at the time, but her encouragement made me work all summer to finish drafts of about a dozen stories. I sent the stories to her when I was done, and a few weeks later she accepted them for publication. My first published book was the Big Mama Stories. By the time I started work on my first novel , I contacted an agent who introduced me to my current editor at a larger publishing company.
Shay: In most of my work, I draw from the facts of my life to create stories. Many of the events are true, the actually happened, but they didn’t all happen to me. I use my imagination to create characters that I hope are so believable the reader thinks they are real people.
Jenn: How long did it take for you to write Soul Kiss?
Shay: It took me my whole life to write Soul Kiss. I thought about it for a long time before I sat down and tried to tell the story. The actual writing took about three years and several drafts.
Jenn: What are some of your interest besides writing?
Shay: My interests include cooking, traveling, painting, visiting art galleries and museums for inspiration, eastern philosophies, gardening, music. My interests are also reflected in what I read.
- This site has a page about her biography and books.
- Shay Youngblood’s website
- To find about Shay’s newest novel Black Girl In Paris,click here.
- This site is about one of Shay’s plays.
- Chapter one of Black Girl in Paris
- Amazon.com provides reviews of Youngblood’s work.
- Youngblood, Shay. “The Mississippi Writers Page.” June 3, 2002.
- Youngblood, Shay. “Soul Kiss”. <http://www.bhak-bludenz.ac.at/bibliothek/youngblood.shtml.>
- Youngblood, Shay. Email Interview. May 5, 2003.
- Youngblood, Shay. Soul Kiss. New York: Riverhead Books, 1997.