Conception A Novel

Kalisha Buckhanon

St. Martin's Griffin

0312545142

9780312545147

Trade Paperback

288 Pages

$18.99

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A School Library Journal Best Adult Book for Teens

In the same vein as her critically acclaimed debut novel, Upstate, Kalisha Buckhanon again shares an emotionally beautiful story about today’s youth that magnifies the unforgettable power of hope and the human spirit.

Buckhanon takes us to Chicago, 1992, and into the life of fifteen-year-old Shivana Golding, who believes most Black women wind up the same: single and raising children alone, like her mother. Until the sudden visit of her charismatic and free-spirited Aunt Jewel, Shivana spends her days desperately struggling to understand life and confront the challenges she faces growing up in a tough environment. When she accidentally becomes pregnant by an older man and must decide what to do, she begins a journey toward adulthood with only a mysterious voice inside to guide her. Then, when she falls in love with Rasul, a teenager with problems of his own, together they fight to rise above their circumstances and move toward a more positive future.

Through a narrative that sweeps from slavery onward, Buckhanon unveils Shivana’s connection to a past filled with tragedy, courage, and wisdom.

REVIEWS

Praise for Conception

"On the same day I began reading Kalisha Buckhanon's ambitious new novel, Conception, I just happened to receive a newsletter from a major African American literary Web site featuring its latest bestseller list. Among the top 10 works of fiction were three by the erotic writer Zane, plus books whose titles all included the words Sex, Whore, Hustler or Thug. That list, however unscientific it may be, perfectly delineates the continental divide between so-called street lit and works by more traditionally literary African American writers, not one of whom appears within shouting distance of the bestseller list. What's interesting to note is how young writers such as Buckhanon seem intent not on taking up positions along this divide but on straddling it. Conception is Buckhanon's second novel, a work of urban fiction that mixes the usual streetwise tales of woe with casual references to Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and the occasional bit of French . . . The heroine is 15-year-old Shivana, who lives in a Chicago slum and believes that most black women stumble blindly into the same painful trap: meet some man, believe his sweet talk, bear his offspring, then watch him leave . . . Shivana's own mother has followed this scenario, ending up bitter and alone . . . Shivana, seeking love in all the wrong places, finds herself pregnant by the first older man who smiles her way. The question of the novel thus becomes whether she will decide to terminate the pregnancy or to keep the unborn child . . . It must be mentioned that part of Conception is narrated by Shivana's unborn child. That choice allows Buckhanon to tour African American history by having the fetus visit various potential black mothers before finally coming to rest in Shivana's womb. The book feels aimed at a high school crowd, and for those readers, the whirlwind tour through black history may be instructive, perhaps even illuminating . . . [Conception is] the work of a gifted young novelist struggling to weld together the various metals of her experience."—Kim McLarin, The Washington Post

“Readers . . . are richly rewarded.”—The Chicago Sun Times

"Much like her acclaimed debut novel, Upstate, Buckhanon is again at her best."—Mosaic Literary Magazine

“A poignant, heart-wrenching novel.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Heartfelt and affecting.”—Booklist

"Buckhanon’s second novel firmly establishes her as a timeless voice for a new generation. An authenticity of language and action permeates the novel. The realities of poor Chicago life and Shivana’s desperation to escape lead to a sad, seemingly predestined conclusion, yet do not detract from the underlying foundations of love and hope. Teens who like Toni Morrison’s work, Buckhanon’s Upstate, and other realistic novels will enjoy this one."—School Library Journal

"Abandoned by her father and having unfulfilling sex with the married man whose children she babysits, Shivana Golding, fifteen, already knew what it felt like to feel nothing. Living in subsidized housing on Chicago's South Side, Shivana is soon enough pregnant. She fears confessing to her mother, considers abortion and finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with a neighborhood boy who just might be her heart love—and also with her own unborn baby. The spirit of this unborn child is a character in its own right, telling a story that spans centuries and offers tragic glimpses into the truncated lives of black children. The fetus's wise . . . narration grounds Shivana's story within a sad legacy, through slavery, lynching and ongoing racism to a modern world where reproductive choice is a myth, virtually all children are unwanted, and The Cosby Show is the ultimate fairy tale."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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KALISHA BUCKHANON's first novel Upstate won an American Library Association Alex Award and was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award in Debut Fiction.  Terry McMillan selected her to receive the first Terry McMillan Young Author Award in 2006. A recipient of a 2001 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship and an Andrew Mellon Fellow, Buckhanon frequently teaches writing and speaks throughout the country. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New School University in New York City, and both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Kalisha Buckhanon

  • Kalisha Buckhanon's first novel Upstate won an American Library Association Alex Award and was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award in Debut Fiction.  Terry McMillan selected her to receive the first Terry McMillan Young Author Award in 2006. A recipient of a 2001 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship and an Andrew Mellon Fellow, Buckhanon frequently teaches writing and speaks throughout the country. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New School University in New York City, and both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. She was born in 1977 in Kankakee, Illinois.
  • Kalisha Buckhanon
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