Light Skin Gone to Waste: Stories (University of Georgia Press)
In 1962 Philip Arrington, a psychologist with a PhD from Yeshiva, arrives in the small, mostly blue-collar town of Monroe, New York, to rent a house for himself and his new wife. They're Black, something the man about to show him the house doesn't know. With that, we're introduced to the Arringtons: Phil, Velma, his daughter Livia (from a previous marriage), and his youngest, Madeline, soon to be born. They're cosmopolitan. Sophisticated. They're also troubled, arrogant, and throughout the linked stories, falling apart.
We follow the family as Phil begins his private practice, as Velma opens her antiques shop, and as they buy new homes, collect art, go skiing, and have overseas adventures. It seems they've made it in the white world. However, young Maddie, one of the only Black children in town, bears the brunt of the racism and the invisible barriers her family's money, education, and determination can't free her from. As she grows up and realizes her father is sleeping with white women, her mother is violently mercurial, and her half-sister resents her, Maddie must decide who she is despite, or perhaps precisely because of, her family.
Toni Ann Johnson won the Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction with her linked story collection Light Skin Gone to Waste (October 15, UGA Press), selected for the prize and edited by Roxane Gay. A novella, Homegoing won Accents Publishing's inaugural novella contest and was published by the press in 2021. It was the Grand Prize Winner for the CIBA 2021 LARAMIE Awards. A novel, Remedy For a Broken Angel was published in 2014 and was nominated for a 2015 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author.
Pushcart Prize nominee, a USC Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities Fellow and a Department of Cultural Affairs City of Los Angeles (COLA) Master Artist Fellow, Shonda Buchanan is the author of five books, including the award-winning memoir, Black Indian. Shonda is also the newest fiction faculty member in Alma College’s MFA Program. Writing on Tongva/Chumash land, Shonda is currently shopping her book of poetry about Nina Simone.
Cynthia Bond's debut novel RUBY is a New York Times Bestseller and was selected for Oprah's Book Club. RUBY was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and an Indie Next Pick. A PEN Rosenthal Fellow, Bond attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She founded the Blackbird Writing Collective in 2011 and she teaches writing workshops throughout the year.
Praise for Light Skin Gone to Waste -
Toni Ann Johnson's Light Skin Gone to Waste is one of the most engrossing short story collections I've read in recent memory. These interconnected stories about a black family living in a predominantly white suburb of New York City are impeccably written, incisive, often infuriating, and unforgettable. At the center of many of these stories is Philip Arrington, a psychologist who tries to reshape the world to his liking as he moves through it, regardless of the ways his actions affect the people in his intimate orbit. With a deft eye for detail, crisp writing, and an uncanny understanding of human frailties, Toni Ann Johnson has created an endlessly interesting American family portrait. — Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist
Toni Ann Johnson's vivid and complex understanding of race, colorism, and interracial love in America has allowed her to capture its essence and create life and a sharp new world on the page. In its menacing violences-words spoken and unspoken, actions and expectations-Johnson portrays her characters with marvelous astuteness; her dialogue shimmers with context and emotion; her settings leave you with new memories as if you've watched her scenes. A linked story collection, Light Skin Gone to Waste is brilliant. — Natashia Deón, author of The Perishing and GRACE
Toni Ann Johnson's Light Skin Gone to Waste is revelatory. With a melodic meticulousness, Johnson exposes racism and family dysfunction in exquisite detail. Brilliantly written, this multifaceted, secretly explosive collection transforms the reader. — Cynthia Bond, New York Times best-selling author of Ruby
Light Skin Gone to Waste is a stellar debut, with a chorale of voices that I won't forget, souls navigating the hatred and hope of the 1960s in an America everyone should read about to remember, and also to think about who this nation is right now. Most impressive are the characters in this book, fathers and wives and daughters, so stunning in their particularities, in the way they look at the old world and the new, in the watchful way they see each other, and the women in this book-their absolute ferocity to be known, and loved, made me think about them for days. — Susan Straight, author of national best-sellers Mecca and In the Country of Women
In these stories, the characters come into focus vividly, as seen through the eyes of loved ones and the glares of the judgmental. Toni Ann Johnson's visual sharpness and evocative language create the many layers that give these stories texture. The dialogue resonates as these characters navigate moments of peace, hatred, and love. Johnson's writing strikes the right chords with a skillful touch that mixes humor, tension, and grace. — Ravi Howard, author of Driving the King and Like Trees, Walking
If there is one book you MUST add to your reading list this year, it is Toni Ann Johnson's Light Skin Gone To Waste. — GirlTalkHQ
A Black girl growing up in a white suburb bears the brunt of her family's fissures in [Toni Ann] Johnson's piercing linked collection. . . . Johnson proves herself a fine story writer. — Publishers Weekly