Shay Youngblood: Black Girl in Paris
Black Girl in Paris
Shay Youngblood: Soul Kiss
Soul Kiss
Shay Youngblood: Big Mama Stories
Big Mama Stories
Shay Youngblood: Black Power Barbie
Black Power Barbie
Shay Youngblood: Winter Prophet
Winter Prophet
Shay Youngblood: Collected Plays
Plays
Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories
Hotel Stories
Shay Youngblood: Black Girl in Paris
Black Girl in Paris (2000)
Riverhead Books

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Black Girl in Paris Film Trailer

“ Black Girl in Paris is Shay Youngblood's love letter and her homage to the expatriates who paved the way for those who followed. The poets and musicians and painters and singers: they are present here in fact and in spirit….Along with their thin wallets and the addresses of a few cheap hotels, young writers intending to run away to Paris might be wise to drop a copy of this one in their backpacks. “ —The New York Times

“ [Black Girl in Paris] is the story of Eden, a passionate and poetic twenty-six year-old American who seeks to grow into a writer in the city of her heroes, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and especially James Baldwin. For them and for her, she believes, Paris is the city of education, of freedom, of dreams. Her impressionistic ecstasy is infectious…[The book has] a classic structure, a plucky narrator, a lively, multiethnic cast of characters and an engaging sensual prose style. “ —Chicago Tribune

“ Shay Youngblood grabs us by the collar and firmly leads us into a world totally of her own making. A fictional memoir so textured and emotionally true that we just keep bouncing along, intrigued by the immature and vulnerable narrator until the end….Youngblood's prose is full of poetic moments. And it proceeds at a fast pace, so fast that you might miss some of her rich detail if you read too quickly. “ —Washington Post

“ Shay Youngblood captures much of the crazed joy and drama of the newly minted traveler….Black Girl in Paris assuredly demonstrates the redemptive power that can come with an author's literary invention. “ —The Advocate

“ As stimulating as a stroll down the Champs-Elysee….It's a testament to Youngblood's talent that Eden's inner adventure is as riveting as any exploit in Paris. “ —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Excerpt:

Museum Guide
Paris, September 1986. Early morning. She is lying on her back in a hard little bed with her eyes closed, dreaming in French. Langston was here. There is a black girl in Paris lying in a bed on the fifth floor of a hotel in the Latin Quarter. Her eyes are closed against the soft pink dawn. Delicate maps of light line her face, tattoo the palms of her hands, the insides of her thighs, the soles of her feet like lace. Jimmy was here. She sleeps while small, feminine hands plant a bomb under the seat of a train headed toward the city of Lyon.

James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Milan Kundera all had lived in Paris as if it had been part of their training for greatness. When artists and writers spoke of Paris in their memoirs and letters home it was with reverence. Those who have been and those who still dream mention the quality of the light, the taste of the wine, the joie de vivre, the pleasures of the senses, a kind of freedom to be anonymous and also new. I wanted that kind of life even though I was a woman and did not yet think of myself as a writer. I was a mapmaker.

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Shay Youngblood: Soul Kiss
Soul Kiss (1997)
Riverhead Books

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“ Intelligent and erotic…immensely engrossing and satisfying…Soul Kiss will make you hungry for more of Youngblood's writing. “ —Washington Post Book World

“ Lyrical, intimate, funny, unsettling, enthralling. “ —Tina McElroy Ansa

“ Youngblood sharply defines the muscle of desire and forces her readers' fingers along its ridges and curves. “ —Providence Sunday Journal

“ Exquisite. “ —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“ A tender, coming of age story. “ —Essence

“ Vibrantly alive with emotion. Soul Kiss is written with a thoughtful dignity that calls to mind Maya Angelou's 1970 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. “ —Boston Sunday Herald

“ Haunting eroticism, lyrical description, and complex characterization…Youngblood brings an intense sense of hermetic emotion to a powerfully subjective tale of one of African American girl's coming-of-age. “ —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“ Infused with the rhythm of poetic phrasings, music that sings to us lullabies of the heart, and the kind of blues you find in the deepest recesses of your soul. “ —Southern Voice

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Excerpt:

The first evening Mama doesn't come back, I make a sandwich with leaves from her goodbye letter. I want to eat her words. I stare at the message written on the stiff yellowed paper as if the shaky scrawl would stand up and speak to me, Mama loves you. Wait here for me. I want her to take back the part about waiting. After crushing the paper into two small balls I flatten them with my fist, then stuff them into the envelope my aunt Faith gave me after Mama had gone. I feel weak as water and stone cold as I sit with my legs dangling over the edge of the thick mattress on the high iron-frame bed, reading by the dim lamplight. I unfold the tiger-print scarf Mama gave me and lay in its center the goodbye sandwich, a small book of rhymes, a biscuit from dinner wrapped in wax paper, and her pink radio that fits in the palm of my hand... After a while I lie down on the bed with the scarf across my face, breathing in the bergamot smell of my mother's hair, tasting bitter tears. I take small bites of the sandwich, careful to taste every word she left me, even the ones I don't understand, then swallowed each with a tear or two.

Shay Youngblood: Big Mama Stories
Big Mama Stories (1989)
Firebrand Books

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Excerpt:

If you don't remember nothing else I tell you, baby, you remember this; If you got to dance or dream or anything at all, take it a step at a time and don't let nothing and nobody get in your way when you doing right. I ain't saying it's gonna be easy, but we all got a dance to do. You remember this, you hear?

Plays
New Works

Shay Youngblood: Collected Plays Collected Plays

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Collected Plays include Shakin' the Mess Out of Misery, Flying Blind, Square Blues, Talking Bones and a short creation myth, There Are Many Houses in my Tribe.

Shay Youngblood: Flying Blind Flying Blind

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Flying Blind uses blindness as a metaphor for denial, deprivation of the senses as well as the ability to turn a blind eye to brutality, ugliness, pain, war and suffering as a means of survival.

FLORAL is a seventy-nine year old woman who has always dreamed of driving across country in her vintage Buick. While sitting behind the wheel of the car at a truck stop in Surrender, Alabama waiting for her son to drive her to an assisted living home, sixteen year old CHERRY asks Floral for a ride in this comic-drama that incorporates storytelling, animation and video.

Shay Youngblood: Shaking The Mess Out of Misery Shakin' The Mess Outta Misery (1993)

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Jubilee Theater - Ft.Worth, TX
"The Maid's Bus:" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFIThGJKwYI

Afterthought Theatre - Denver, Colorado
"The Prayer Meeting:" http://youtu.be/LDXUrxJtqDI

“...whatever the theatrical tool, Shay's work soars.“ — Punch Shaw, DFW.com
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“..well-crafted, funny and heartfelt...“ — Mary L. Clark, Pegasus News
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“lovingly written and intricately woven“ — Bert Osborne, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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“This must-see performance will remind you of what matters most in life. If you have someone who cares about you and is fully supportive of everything you do and aspire to, keep them close because you may never know when you might lose them.“ — Ariel Lafayette, VOX Teen Blog
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“Horizon Theatre's brazzy, bumptious production of "Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery" feels like one those family reunions that sprawls so far and wide, it comes with its own T-shirt.“ — Curt Holman, Creative Loafing
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“You don't want to miss this production...“ — Portia Scott, Atlanta Daily World
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Shay Youngblood: Talking Bones Talking Bones (1993)

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Talking Bones is set in Ancestor's Books & Breakfast, a half empty bookstore in a small Southern town, where three generations of women, Ruth, her daughter Baybay and her grand daughter Eila, hear the ancestors through a broken hearing aid, whispers in the dark and in talking bones. The ancestors bring a message about love, faith and family.

Interview with Shay Youngblood

1. How did you come up with the idea for the play?
The title of my play, Talking Bones came after I read an article about construction workers in Africa finding bones in trees when they were clearing a construction site. I discovered that long ago the griots, storytellers, were buried in the hollow of Baobob trees. I imagined all the stories that they knew being lost if proper respect was not given to the memory of the ancestors. When I was traveling along the East Coast somewhere around Connecticut I ate at a diner that gave each person a free book with their meal.
2. How has this play been more challenging or less challenging than your other plays?
Talking Bones is set in a world where anything can happen, almost a dream world. The ancestors who have passed on speak to each person in the play in a different way. At the first reading of the play I thought that my Great Aunt would be confused by the characters straddling two worlds but at the end of the play she said, "That's about us, that's about our family me and you and Big Mama." I laughed because she was right, I was writing about three generations of women who are desperately trying to make themselves be understood and figure out how to be useful in the world and fulfill their own personal desires.
3. Which character do you identify with the most and why?
Eila the youngest character in the play is most like I was as a young person in her attempts to find out who she is and how she can be purposeful in her life.
4. What do you want the audience to take away from the play?
I would like audiences to leave the theater with a sense of hope and belief in the power of the word and the importance of family, of passing on knowledge and preserving our culture.
5. How involved are you with the actors and the director?
I want directors who are drawn to my work to feel free to put their mark on the play, to give a unique interpretation. I wrote Talking Bones and Shaking the Mess Out of Misery over a decade ago and am so pleased that the images and the stories still stand and that people are still interested in what the play has to say about family, black women, African American history and culture.
7. Do you ever find it difficult to have the actors capture what you value as the main principles of the play?
I usually don't work with the actors directly. It is the directors' job to guide the actors and work with them on bringing the words I have written to life. I have often been surprised at how much the actors and directors who are drawn to my work relate to my work and have only once had to have a discussion with a director who didn't understand one of the fundamental issues in my work.
8. What is your favorite part of the play and why?
I love watching Baybay's enthusiasm when she is with Mr. Fine. She is a romantic and believes in the power of love to save her. It is a sad and funny moment full of the contradictions of life and the complexity of human feelings and desires.
9. How long did it take you to write the play?
I wrote the play over a period of about a year while I was working on other projects. I'm always working on other projects. I've written novels, a graphic novel and a few years ago I found a new artistic expression in making paintings and artists books.
10. What was your inspiration?
Being by nature a curious person I find inspiration in everday life, traveling, reading, engaging in conversations with all kinds of people even if it means sometimes stepping outside of my comfort zone to learn something new. I was born in Georgia and have lived in many places around the world sometimes being in situations outside my comfort zone inspired me to ask lots of questions, assume less and listen more.
11. What are your main messages in the play?
Talking Bones is a play about people trying to create family and preserve their history and culture by feeding people knowledge to strengthen them, to arm them with the tools to live a full life. In the end it's all about love.

Shay Youngblood: Amazing Grace Amazing Grace (1993)

Comedy/Drama. Adapted from the book by Mary Hoffman.

Cast: 4m., 7w. (Cast: 3 women, 4 girls and 4 boys, plus extra neighborhood children, adult offstage voice.) In the words of Ms. Youngblood, "Amazing Grace is about a little girl who loves acting out stories, those told and read to her by her grandmother as well as ones she reads on her own. She also makes up her own stories, acting out the most exciting parts. When Grace is in her playworld everything to her is real. In her imagination, she becomes the characters: Anansi the Spider, Joan of Arc, Mowgli, Hiawatha. She's a pirate with a peg leg and a parrot, an explorer, and a theater director of a production of 'Cinderella' in which she casts a boy in the title role. Grace's mother is very practical and hopes that Grace will become a doctor, a lawyer or a professional person given the opportunities she herself didn't have. Her grandmother, Nana, believes that Grace can be whatever she wants to be. Grace is told by two of her classmates that she can't be Peter Pan in the school play because she is a girl and because she is black. In the end, Grace shows us that she can indeed do anything she sets her mind to. I selected the West African Anansi story and use traditional storytelling techniques such as songs, rhythm and repetition to teach Grace and her friends a bit of folk wisdom." Unit set. Approximate running time without intermission: 1 hour.

photos courtesy of
Horizon Theatre Company

production rights available:
Dramatic Publishing Company

Shay Youngblood: Square Blues Square Blues

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Square Blues follows, a reparations activist, his mother Odessa, who married a Jewish store owner in the 1940's and her grand daughter Karma, an art activist, during one summer weekend in the early 1990's during which each member of his family is challenged to stand up for their beliefs in ways that threaten to tear the family apart. Three generations in a southern family respond to oppression and injustice and find the courage to stand up for their beliefs as they redefine what makes a family and what holds it together. For many years Square has been collecting names on petitions demanding Black Pay Back, financial reparations and a public apology for slavery and using money inherited from his father to bail out political prisoners and finance a radical underground movement. During the course of the play Square paints a ‘wall of resistance' mural on the interior wall of the café depicting modern heroes and activists while his niece Karma creates art on public walls using spray paint, nude models and found objects in her art actions to bring attention to the issues she feels passion for, and Odessa is lost in her memories, grieving the loss of a most profound and dangerous love.

Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories
Hotel Stories, Artists Books

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Hotel Stories: erotica - volume 1

In these series of funny, unsettling, erotic, heart-breaking and sensual stories set in hotels around the world, hotel guests discover private passions, unexpected pleasures, hope, redemption, small pleasures and discover the darkest parts of themselves when faced with four anonymous walls and a bed. Q spends her weekdays working a 9 to 5 in the financial district and her weekends in elegant boutique hotels exploring her fluid sexuality; On hot summer afternoons, a teenager cools down during secret visits to an air-conditioned porn theater; an aspiring opera singer spends her wedding night in a hotel room with her husband and his best friend; and a man loses his wife, but finds her again in his erotic memories.

Selected titles available in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese

Available at Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis, MN



Shay Youngblood: Black Power Barbie Black Power Barbie

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Tabitha X and her younger brother, Jackson Five, the children of murdered African American Civil Rights activists, battle for Black Power Barbie as they relive vivid and frightening memories in therapy sessions in the mid 1990's. As adults, Tabitha remains psychologically wounded, living in the past, while Jackson faces the reality of living with AIDS. They both discover romantic love and struggle to hold on to it while seeking justice for their parents' murder.

Shay Youngblood: Winter Prophet Winter Prophet

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Set in the late nineteenth century, the novel follows Winter Grace, the uniquely talented daughter of former slaves, who is determined to become an opera singer and her best friend, Nathan Fitzpatrick, an undertaker's son, who dreams of becoming a boxer. There is little hope for either of their dreams to be realized in the small Kansas town where they grow into adulthood. Winter's life is transformed when a mysterious Italian voice teacher, La Signora, arrives in town on a morning train dressed in evening clothes, bearing bruises from her abusive husband, a famous tenor. On their wedding day Winter and Nathan runaway together and set out to create the lives they have dreamed about. Winter Prophet was inspired by the life of African American opera diva Sisseretta Jones known as the "Black Patti" (1869-1933).