For those under Collins’s spell, our plaint will always be the same: more. Give us more—more letters, more diary entries, more careful curation of the work. What we really want for her is more life. And more art, because what we have—even when raw, unfinished or this carelessly presented—is dazzling ... her voice and vision are idiosyncratic and pitiless, combining mischief and crisp authority, formal experimentation and deep feeling. More and more writers, I hazard, will start to sound like her. (I am fighting the impulse here myself; her voice is strong and contagious) ... There is the sleekness of her sentences, and the burrs. There is cool skepticism but also hunger for rapture. There is humor a knife’s edge from despair.
Here is the brilliance of Collins’s work in all of its quietude: its turn within, its placement of the interior and subjective in the context of the social and political. Collins recognizes the power of those structures that remake everyday life, for better and worse, but she chooses instead to shine a light on the inner workings of complex souls ... The difficulties of relationships, the longing for love and recognition, the experience of forthright sexual encounters and betrayals, and the compulsive drive toward creativity—these are the engines that drive both her fiction and nonfiction forward. Like her diary entries and essays, her stories are peopled by figures who write, paint, design, read. Sometimes they are in conversation with each other, but most often we find them alone with their own thoughts ... It is a testament to her writing that we leave these volumes wanting more: more writing by her and more information about the works we do have. The stories do not need explanation and analysis; they do, however, call for more contextualization, which will be the work of a new generation of scholars, critics, and artists who discover Collins as a result of these collections.
The timely refrain of struggling through loneliness, single parenting, and being close to financial ruin for the sake of her art, could easily be the social media timeline of one of your favorite writers. But Kathleen Collins turns all of this suffering into badges of honor, a cry for survival with triumph in the end ... After reading Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary, I see what it means to stay connected with our past ... What a loss it would’ve been if Collins’s journals had never been saved and found. Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary is lucid, transformative storytelling from a talented writer who refused to limit herself or accept the labels society tried to impose. She was a black woman who wanted to write from a place of artist, woman, friend, lover, wife, and most of all, human being.
I hadn’t heard of Kathleen Collins before I read Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary. Now I can’t stop thinking of her and the many other groundbreaking writers — many of color, many women — who did not get their due when they were alive, or will never get their due, or failed to even get published ... Though these stories let the reader know they’re in the presence of a formidable talent, for me, the strongest pieces were the plays. Collins’ facility for transforming the chaotic thoughts of the psyche into poignant and revealing dialogue is on par with some of our most revered and celebrated modern playwrights ... Her lines flow naturally, never sounding false, yet always profound and provocative ... athleen Harris is no longer with us, but it isn’t too late to recognize her as a pioneer, honor her legacy, and support the work of the many extraordinary black women who have followed in her footsteps.
This new collection highlights [Collins'] strengths as dramatist, screenwriter, and short-story creator ... Collins limns incisive portraits of artistic, intellectual Black women stretched to their limits that glimmer against a background of racism, sexism, and just plain life. A timely reclamation of a remarkable voice.
Collins’s characters are rarely political, but at no point do they forget the way politics affects their lives ... Collins’s talent at presenting conflicting accounts is...complicated by the fact that her characters are coming to the relationship with expectations not only about the way men and women act, but how white people and black people act ... Collins unspools the pressures and lies created by racism most delicately in the title story of 'Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?' ... the distance Collins creates is the most interesting aspect of the account. Her story is tinged with nostalgia, yet gently mocks the desire to look on the 1960s with any kind of hope. Racism, here, can’t be healed by everyone coming to dinner. Collins doesn’t allow the civil rights movement to be romanticized ... the work doesn’t read first and foremost as political: it doesn’t slot easily into any of the categories that still determine the way writers deemed outside the mainstream are packaged and sold. Every era has its own rigid expectations; concealed behind them are writers and artists, talented but unseen.
Adds to the author’s evolving reputation.... Searing commentary on race and gender ... While not as eye-opening as Collins's earlier stories, this compilation will add appreciation for a talented writer whose life was cut too short as well as provide hope for the recovery of her previously unpublished work. Recommended for all libraries
As the works here quickly demonstrate, [it is] a mastery that transcends form ... The fragments from Collins’ actual life—first the diary entries and then the letters—are as arrestingly clear as the fiction, small and expansive at once ... Reading Collins work the same themes over again and again across mediums is a rare pleasure—as close as most of us will ever come to her spectacular mind.