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.