Shivana Golding, a fifteen-year-old girl growing up on the
South Side of Chicago, wants a better life than the one she
sees day in, day out all around her. Trouble is, she
doesn't have any idea how to get that better life, and no
one—other than Aunt Jewel, who blows in and out of her life
with the rarity of four-leaf clovers—to guide her.
Shivana also wants to be loved, something she's not sure her
mother has been able to do since her father left nor the
older man in her building who takes advantage of her. When
Shivana discovers she is pregnant, she has to decide what to
do. Then, she meets Rasul, another troubled teen, which
both gives her hope and complicates her decisions.
I typically hate when I hear someone is "the next
so-and-so", as in the next Michael Jordan, the next Ella
Fitzgerald, or the next Bill Gates. So I'll refrain from
calling Kalisha Buckhanon "the next Toni Morrison". But it
will be difficult. Very difficult.
CONCEPTION is one of those stories that is as contemporary
as it is historical. Through an interesting application of
flashback, Ms. Buckhanon gives voice to the pain and anguish
of conception and pregnancy for African-American women,
examining through the emotionally wrenching and
violence-fraught lenses of slavery, Reconstruction, and the
early 20th century in contrast to Shivana's modern day tale.
I had a difficult time, at first, getting into the
flashbacks, more captivated by the contemporary portions of
the story. But Ms. Buckhanon's lyrical passages eventually
drew me in, such that I found myself returning to the
earlier ones to grab what I, in my impatience, had missed.
By mid-story, I was reminded of one of my favorite authors,
the one to whom I won't make a comparison. But if I did,
the comparison would be more than deserved. I won't though,
because Kalisha Buckhanon, first through UPSTATE and now
CONCEPTION, has proven to be a distinctive author in her own
right, able to capture and share the voice of today's youth
in solid, and enchanting, literary fashion.
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
Buckhanon takes us to Chicago, 1992, and into
the life of fifteen-year-old Shivana Golding, who believes
mostBlack 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
Through a narrative that sweeps from
slavery onward, Buckhanon unveils Shivana’s connection to a
past filled with tragedy, courage, and wisdom.