The linked stories in Mama Said are set in Louisville, Kentucky, a city with a rich history steeped in tobacco, bourbon, and gambling, indulgences that can quickly become gripping and destructive vices. Set amid the tail end of the crack epidemic and the rise of the opioid crisis, Mama Said evokes Black family life in all its complexity, following JayLynn, along with her cousins Zaria and Angel, as they come of age struggling against their mothers’ drug addictions.
JayLynn heads to college intent on gaining distance from her depressed mother only to learn that her mother’s illness has reached a terrifying peak. She fears the chaos and instability of her extended family will prove too much for her boyfriend whose idyllic family feels worlds, not miles, apart from her own. When Zaria’s new home is invaded by bats, she is forced to determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to be a good mother. Angel rebels on Derby night, risking her safety to connect to her absent mother and the wild ways that consumed her.
Mama Said separates from the stereotypes of Black families, presenting instead the joy, humor, and love that coexist with the trauma of drug abuse within communities. Kristen Gentry’s stories showcase the wide-reaching repercussions of addiction and the ties that forever bind daughters to their mothers, flaws and all.
Kristen Gentry is the author of Mama Said. She received her MFA from Indiana University. Her award-winning fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Jabberwock Review, and other journals. She is a VONA and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference alumna, former Director of Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo, and a member of the inaugural Poets & Writers publicity incubator for debut writers. She lives and writes in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, helping other black women and girls share their stories.