Bookmarks presents : Leesa Cross Smith in conversation with Naima Coster
About Leesa Cross-Smith:
Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and writer from Kentucky. She is the author of So We Can Glow (Grand Central Publishing, 2020), Whiskey & Ribbons (Hub City Press, 2018), Every Kiss A War (Mojave River Press, 2014), and the forthcoming This Close To Okay (Grand Central Publishing, 2021) and Half-Blown Rose (Grand Central Publishing, 2022). She is longlisted for the 2021 Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize. This Close To Okay was a Book of the Month Early Release Pick for December 2020. So We Can Glow was listed as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020. The novel Whiskey & Ribbons was longlisted for the 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and listed among Oprah Magazine’s “Top Books of Summer.” Every Kiss A War was a finalist for both the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction (2012) and the Iowa Short Fiction Award (2012). Find more @ LeesaCrossSmith.com.
About This Close to Okay:
On a rainy October night in Kentucky, recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark is on her way home when she spots a man precariously standing on the edge of a bridge. Without a second thought, Tallie pulls over and jumps out of the car into the pouring rain. She convinces the man to join her for a cup of coffee, and he eventually agrees to come back to her house, where he finally, reluctantly, shares his first name: Emmett.
Over the course of the emotionally-charged weekend that follows, Tallie makes it her mission to provide a safe and comfortable space for Emmett, although she doesn’t confess that she works as a therapist. However, Emmett is not the only one who needs help—and he has secrets of his own.
Alternating between Tallie and Emmett’s perspectives as they inch closer to the truth of what brought Emmett to the bridge, This Close to Okay is an uplifting, powerful story of two strangers brought together by wild chance at the moment they need it the most.
About Naima Coster:
Naima Coster is the author of two novels. Her debut, Halsey Street, was a finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction and longlisted for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. It was recommended as a must-read by People, Essence, BitchMedia, Well-Read Black Girl, The Skimm, and the Brooklyn Public Library among others. Her forthcoming novel, What’s Mine and Yours, will be published in March 2021.
Naima’s stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Kweli, The Paris Review Daily, The Cut, The Sunday Times, Catapult, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree for 2020.
Naima has taught writing for over a decade in community settings, youth programs, and universities. Most recently, she has taught writing in the MFA programs at the City College of New York, Antioch University in L.A., and the University of Michigan.
Naima tweets as @zafatista and writes the newsletter, Bloom How You Must. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
About What's Mine and Yours:
A community in the Piedmont of North Carolina rises in outrage as a county initiative draws students from the largely Black east side of town into predominantly white high schools on the west. For two students, Gee and Noelle, the integration sets off a chain of events that will tie their two families together in unexpected ways over the span of the next twenty years.
On one side of the integration debate is Jade, Gee's steely, ambitious mother. In the aftermath of a harrowing loss, she is determined to give her son the tools he'll need to survive in America as a sensitive, anxious, young Black man. On the other side is Noelle's headstrong mother, Lacey May, a white woman who refuses to see her half-Latina daughters as anything but white. She strives to protect them as she couldn't protect herself from the influence of their charming but unreliable father, Robbie.
When Gee and Noelle join the school play meant to bridge the divide between new and old students, their paths collide, and their two seemingly disconnected families begin to form deeply knotted, messy ties that will shape the trajectory of their adult lives. And their mothers—each determined to see her child inherit a better life—will make choices that will haunt them for decades to come.