Synopses & Reviews
Short stories about race and sexuality by a Pittsburgh author whose work on African American topics has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and McSweeney's.
2021 Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
2020 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. 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.
There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who has a crush on the preacher’s wife. At forty-two, Lyra realizes that her discomfort with her own body stands between her and a new love. As Y2K looms, Caroletta’s “same time next year” arrangement with her childhood best friend is tenuous. A serial mistress lays down the ground rules for her married lovers. In the dark shadows of a hospice parking lot, grieving strangers find comfort in each other.
With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.
“Our new decade deserves a new literary force with major literary skills. Deesha Philyaw uses the comic, the allegorical, and the geographic to examine Black intimacies and Black secrets. Her work is as rigorous as it is pleasurable to read.”
Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“Beautifully crafted. A lovely collection.”
Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist
“In this year of constriction and pain, juicy goodness bursts from every page of Deesha Philyaw's debut short story collection... This collection marks the emergence of a bona fide literary treasure.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Triumphant... Philyaw’s stories inform and build on one another, turning her characters’ private struggles into a beautiful chorus.”
“A collection of luminous stories populated by deeply moving and multifaceted characters... Tender, fierce, proudly black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
About the Author
Deesha Philyaw’s writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, McSweeney’s, the Rumpus, Brevity, TueNight, and elsewhere. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, she currently lives in Pittsburgh with her daughters.