Kalisha Buckhanon

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Kalisha Buckhanon (born April 1, 1977 in Kankakee, Illinois)[1] is an African-American author who writes frequently on literature, race and Black women's themes. She was educated at the University of Chicago and New School University.


Buckhanon comes from a large middle class Christian family. She was born when her parents, Kerry and Juwana Buckhanon, were teenagers.[2] Buckhanon began writing as a young woman. She was high school Class President and a community activist as a commitment her parents raised her with. She has remarked she grew up in a time when Black American teenagers were besieged with stereotypes as "crack babies", "welfare moms" and "gangbangers", and she saw her life experiences and voice as ways to "correct misconceptions of Black life for generations to come".[3] She found author Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye at Kankakee Public Library and became empowered to write from a Black female perspective.[4] Buckhanon received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago,[1] and a Masters of Fine Arts (M.F.A) in Creative Writing from New School University.[4] She studied as a humanities doctoral student at the University of Chicago, and obtained her Master of Arts in English from the program.

Writing career[edit]

Buckhanon's first published short story was "Card Parties" in 2003 in the Michigan Quarterly Review.[5] Her first novel, Upstate, was published in 2005 by St. Martin's Press. The novel was sold in a publishing auction for a mid six-figure sum.[6] Upon its publication, Essence magazine named Buckhanon one of its "Three Writers to Watch".[7]

Upstate tells the story of a young New York couple, and won an award from the American Library Association.[8] The novel was called "wild and beautiful" by novelist Sapphire, "heartbreaking and true" by writer Dorothy Allison, and "intimate, wrenching" by novelist and journalist Achy Obejas. Author Terry McMillian called the book "honest" and stated that Buckhanon "captured real emotion". The book became a popular favorite among youth and urban teachers.[3] Upstate was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in Debut Fiction. The Upstate audiobook won the Audie Award for Literary Fiction.

In 2008, her second novel Conception was published, again by St. Martin's Press.[9] The novel tells the story of four months in the life of a young Chicago woman who discovers she is pregnant and wants to abort her unborn child, who also narrates part of the story. School Library Journal wrote that librarians should "recommend this moving novel to readers who enjoyed Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Sapphire's PUSH".[10] The Chicago-based literary society Friends of American writers awarded the novel its 2009 Adult Literary Fiction Prize.[11]


  • Upstate (2005)
  • Conception (2008)
  • Solemn (2016)


  • Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Prose (2001)
  • Hurston-Wright Foundation Legacy Award in Debut Fiction- finalist (2006)
  • American Library Association ALEX Award (2006)
  • Audio Publishers Association Audie Award in Literary Fiction (2006)
  • Terry McMillan Young Author Award at the National Book Club Conference (2006)
  • Friends of American Writers Adult Literary Fiction Award (2009)


  1. ^ a b "Barnes and Noble biography". Barnes and Noble. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Kalisha Buckhanon, Author". African American Literature Book Club. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Blair, Madeline (May 1, 2008). "A Nuanced Young Black Voice". Colorlines.
  4. ^ a b McGee, Celia (January 14, 2005). "Upstate of the Art: Teacher pens novel for rap generation". New York Daily News. 
  5. ^ Buckhanon, Kalisha (Spring 2003). "Card Parties". Michigan Quarterly Review.
  6. ^ Vernon, Polly (11 June 2005). "Introducing ... Kalisha Buckhanon". London Observer/Guardian.
  7. ^ Gibbs, Laurina (January 2005). "Three Writers to Watch". Essence. Time Inc.
  8. ^ "2006 Alex Awards". American Library Association. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  9. ^ McLarin, Kim (February 17, 2008). "The Demands of Motherhood". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  10. ^ Osborne, Charli (December 2008). "Conception". School Library Journal.
  11. ^ Adult Literature Awards. Friends of American Writers. Retrieved July 23, 2013.

External links[edit]