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Speaking of Summer

A Novel

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ON SALE: July 30, 2019 | Hardcover | 6.0 x 9.0, 288 pages | ISBN 9781640091917
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"Kalisha Buckhanon's characters are both fearless and haunted, brave and burdened by the past. Speaking of Summer gives us a powerful song about what it means to survive as a woman in America." –Jesmyn Ward, National Book Award winner and author of Sing, Unburied, Sing

“This audacious blend of mystery, family drama, intimate characterization, and sensitive exploration of the personal and social implications of loss is the author’s finest work to date. This is a New York story for the ages, the country, the world.” —Colin Channer, author of Passing Through and Waiting in Vain

On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister, Summer, walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again. The door to the roof is locked, and the snow holds only one set of footprints. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing Black woman, Autumn must pursue the search for her sister all on her own.

With her friends and neighbors, Autumn pretends to hold up through the crisis. But the loss becomes too great, the mystery too inexplicable, and Autumn starts to unravel, all the while becoming obsessed with the various murders of local women and the men who kill them, thinking their stories and society’s complacency toward them might shed light on what really happened to her sister.

In Speaking of Summer, critically acclaimed author Kalisha Buckhanon has created a fast-paced story of urban peril and victim invisibility, and the fight to discover the complicated truths at the heart of every family.

KALISHA BUCKHANON is the author of the novels SolemnConception, and Upstate, which was selected as an inaugural National Book Foundation Literature for Justice title. Her other honors include an American Library Association Alex Award, an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship, Pushcart Prize and Hurston/Wright Awards nominations, and a Terry McMillan Young Author Award. She also appears on Investigation Discovery, BET, and TV One as a true crime expert in cases involving women. She lives in Chicago. Find out more at


Praise for Speaking of Summer

USA Today, 1 of 20 of the Season’s Hottest New Books
O, The Oprah Magazine, 1 of 25 Best Beach Reads of the Year So Far
New York Post, 1 of the 25 Best Beach Reads of the Year
Bustle, 1 of 50 New Books of Summer

Bustle, 1 of 40 New Thrillers Out This Summer That Make the Perfect Vacation Reads
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1 of 9 Mysteries and Thrillers to Give You an Adrenaline Rush This Summer

“Kalisha Buckhanon’s characters are both fearless and haunted, brave and burdened by the past. Speaking of Summer gives us a powerful song about what it means to survive as a woman in America.” —Jesmyn Ward, National Book Award winner and author of Sing, Unburied, Sing

“Kalisha Buckhanon’s Speaking of Summer is a spellbinding masterpiece, a riveting read from a young woman who has become a major American storyteller.” —Sapphire, author of Push and The Kid

“Who cares about the disappearance of Summer—a beautiful, broken Black woman? No one but her twin sister, Autumn. Yet things are not always as they appear in this absorbing drama that is equal parts women’s fiction and suspense thriller. As it plumbs the fissures of the human psyche, Speaking of Summer endures the devastation of loss and embraces the power of love.” ––Sandra Jackson-Opoku, author of The River Where Blood Is Born and Hot Johnny (and the Women Who Loved Him)

“Kalisha Buckhanon’s Speaking of Summer is that rarest of books—a culturally crucial literary novel that contains the raw, beating heart of a thriller. Buckhanon juggles themes of race and ethnicity, mental health and addiction, along with sibling loyalty and rivalry. Best of all is a secret, not entirely unfurled till the end, that compels the reader to solve the mystery of Summer.” ––Jenny Milchman, Mary Higgins Clark Award–winning author of Cover of Snow and Wicked River

Speaking of Summer has everything: beauty, bite, raw truth, nail-biting urgency, and a central mystery that’s both timely and timeless.” —Abby Geni, author of The Wildlands and The Lightkeepers

“This audacious blend of mystery, family drama, intimate characterization, and sensitive exploration of the personal and social implications of loss is the author’s finest work to date. This is a New York story for the ages, the country, the world.” —Colin Channer, author of Passing Through and Waiting in Vain

“A mysterious and haunting tale about the powerlessness of women of color and society’s indifference toward them. But also about their indomitable will to survive.” ––Connie Briscoe, New York Times bestselling author of P.G. County and Sisters & Lovers

“In her fourth novel, writer Kalisha Buckhanon sheds light on often-overlooked stories of victims and their families.” —Time, 1 of 32 Books You Need to Read This Summer

“With absorbing prose, fast-moving plot and excellent dialogue, Buckhanon examines silence in the face of patriarchy and white supremacy, and the dynamics of family.”—Sara Neilson, The Brooklyn Rail

“Kalisha Buckhanon has created a narrative voice that’s authentic, emotionally charged and wise, but beneath the surface of the story lurks the unraveling of a life and how ‘even the biological imperative to survive’ can sometimes lose against the ‘power of past experiences.’ Buckhanon has crafted a deeply moving psychological mystery with twists that come in unhurried moments like the small notes the sisters buried in bottles in their garden shed. I’m going to be talking about Summer for a while.” —Carole E. Barrowman, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

“A voice for the invisible.” —Keyaira Boone, Essence, 1 of 10 Books We’re Dying to Toss into Our Summer Totes

“What do you do when your twin, your other half, disappears, and no one seems to notice? . . . Buckhanon (Solemn, 2016) captures Autumn’s frustration at the undervaluing of Black women, accompanied by the creeping gentrification of her Harlem neighborhood. Not only are individual Black women disappearing, so are the communities that keep them safe.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Buckhanon’s literary thriller is a deeply felt, searching portrait of twin sisters.” —CrimeReads, One of the Most Anticipated Crime Books of Summer

“Mysterious urgency is what drives this complex and suspenseful novel, which follows 34-year-old Autumn as she sacrifices her professional and personal life—as well as her emotional and psychological wellbeing—in the pursuit of her missing sister, Summer. The story unravels in Autumn’s mind, reading at times like a stream of consciousness with flashbacks woven throughout, and culminates in a powerful story of discovery—on the surface, a search for Autumn’s sister, but ultimately an excavation of herself.” —Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed

“Buckhanon’s literary psychothriller is a deeply felt, searching portrait of twin sisters, one of them mysteriously disappeared from the Harlem brownstone where they live, the other left behind and forced to deal with the inexplicable vanishing, eventually driven by her grief and confusion into launching an investigation of her own.” —Dwyer Murphy, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Summer

“Explores the most intimate family relationships, while tackling the subject of race relations and urban degradation in America today.” —Rupert Hawksley, The National, 1 of 19 Unmissable Books to Read This Summer

“Uses crime fiction as a way to magnify issues of racial injustice, focusing on how violence against black women is disproportionately ignored by law enforcement.” —Publishers Weekly

“The novel explores issues of race, gender, and violence with nuance . . . Buckhanon understands the complexities of trauma. Her portrait of Autumn’s grief, fragmented memories, and inner turmoil all synthesize current scientific research on how people cope with traumatic experiences and might seek to heal.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Lyrical and luscious, Speaking of Summer is a literary gift.” —Bernice L. McFadden, author of Praise Song for the Butterflies

“After her sister Summer up and disappears one winter night in New York City, Autumn Spencer is consumed by her sister’s disappearance. Autumn is no stranger to true crime, surrounding herself with information about violence against women in order to protect herself and her sister in the big city, but Summer’s vulnerability and disappearance leaves Autumn spinning and frantic for answers, her guilt compounded by the fact that she’s fallen in love with her sister’s boyfriend. In a country where the treatment of African Americans, and particularly the disappearances of African American women, are often overlooked and ignored, Autumn is determined to make waves and force the NYPD to pay attention regardless of the personal toll it takes on her. Kalisha Buckhanon perfectly intertwines the best of the literary fiction and mystery genres in order to create a compelling narrative on the intersections of crime, race, gender, and personal freedom in modern America. With each chapter, the pace quickens, and Buckhanon’s writing will have you racing to the end.” —Morgan McComb, The Raven Book Store (Lawrence, KS)

“Imagine you have a twin sister (like Autumn does). Now imagine one day she walked up to the roof of your apartment building and, well . . . disappeared. Locked roof door and one set of footprints notwithstanding, there’s not much interest in finding her, at least from official ranks. So it’s up to Autumn to find Summer. This is no typical amateur sleuth. Autumn is a normal woman who would rather avoid danger, but she has no choice. I love her dedication to her sister and the mystery of her disappearance. This is a thriller written in such beautiful, compelling language that you won’t want it to stop.” —Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore (Spokane, WA)

Praise for Solemn

“The novel is a success for what it does well: giving voice to the desires, fears and lyrical language of ordinary Southern black people.” —The Washington Post

“Kalisha Buckhanon has no problem taking readers into the lives of those we often pass by. Take her searing new effort, Solemn.” —Essence Magazine

“A searing story . . . fueled by emotion.” —Bustle

“In this lyrical, haunting coming-of-age story, Solemn struggles to find identity and a way forward in the face of poverty and disenfranchisement.” —The University of Chicago Magazine

Solemn is a topical and timely exploration of the way one vulnerable African-American girl living in a trailer park in Mississippi navigates the world around her.” —Citizen-Times

Solemn is a beautifully written, poetic novel.” —Pride Magazine UK

“In Solemn, American Library Association Award-winning author Kalisha Buckhanon crafts a story of a wise-beyond-her-years Mississippi girl’s search for self and truth.” —Hello Beautiful

Solemn is written in lyrically beautiful, poetic language . . . the story starts off with a traumatic event that successfully weaves its tendrils throughout the rest of the book.” — RT Reviews

“No light beach read, Solemn is a topical and timely exploration of the way one vulnerable African-American girl living in a trailer park in Mississippi navigates the world around her. There’s a thread of mystery running through the narrative, but this story, which has drawn comparisons to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, is as much about a young girl’s inner life and way forward through her increasingly precarious future.” —Asheville Citizen-Times

“Reading this story, I found it difficult (although ridiculously unfair) not to think of Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, not only because Solemn is told in a similar, fragmented style but also because both center on young black girls wounded by the actions of those closest to them. Morrison has said that part of what pushed her to write The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, was the yawning absence of black girls in our nation’s literature . . . the novel is a success for what it does well: giving voice to the desires, fears and lyrical language of ordinary Southern black people.” —The Denver Post

Solemn is a thought-provoking and powerful novel about a girl who sees what she shouldn’t and is forced all too soon to learn about betrayal, loss and the precariousness of love. Kalisha Buckhanon is a writer of great imagination and boundless empathy. The writing style is poetic and the use of Mississippi dialogue, both black and white, is masterful. Solemn is a haunting story that keeps pages turning until the end.” —Jonathan Odell, author of The Healing and Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League

“An emotional and expressive novel about family, obligation and community. This twisting, expressive coming-of-age story not only offers readers a young girl’s experience of seeking her place in the world, but also illustrates the struggle of life in the rural South.” —Bookpage

“This standout novel is anchored by its vulnerable and brave heroine.” —Publishers Weekly

“Buckhanon crafts a hypnotic tale . . . cast against the hardships of everyday life in Singer’s Trailer Park, a young girl’s troubled thoughts make for a heartbreaking story of broken promises.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This work earns a place alongside James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods as top-notch literary fiction sending a message about African American struggles in the 21st century.” —Library Journal

“The story’s compassionate tone and rich characters will recommend it to fans of family fiction and Buckhanon’s earlier work.” —Booklist

Praise for Conception

“A blistering reality check.” —Ebony

“Readers who brace for the adventure are richly rewarded.” —Chicago Sun-Times

“The work of a gifted young novelist.” —Washington Post Book World

“Chronicles the voice of a soul restless, and desperately calling for a new day.” —Bayo Ojikutu, Great American Book Award-winning author of 47th Street Black

“Buckhanon is again at her best.” —Mosaic Literary Magazine

“An emotional journey. A read that highlights African-American women’s issues.” —OK!

“Buckhanon’s second novel firmly establishes her as a timeless voice for a new generation. An authenticity of language and action permeates the novel . . . Teens who like Toni Morrison’s work, Buckhanon’s Upstate, and other realistic novels will enjoy this one.” —School Library Journal

“An awe-inspiring novel.” ––Urban Reviews

“Kalisha Buckhanon 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.” —Fresh Fiction

“At its best, the novel balances a bitter stocktaking with a sorrowful lyricism.” —Publishers Weekly

“Recommend this moving novel to readers who enjoyed Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Sapphire’s PUSH.” —Library Journal

“A poignant, heart-wrenching novel.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Heartfelt and affecting.” —Booklist

Praise for Upstate

1 of 5 books selected by the National Book Foundation for the inaugural Literature for Justice Program

“A realistic love story set against a backdrop as gritty as it is memorable.” —People

“Captures the tenacity and faithfulness of young love.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A sensitive portrayal of young lovers that moves beyond gritty urban fiction.” —Essence

“A poetry uniquely its own.” —Elle

“The street smart language crackles.” —Marie Claire

“In one of the most nuanced and intimate reflections of all the ways different intersecting identities can be affected by reproductive injustice, Upstate tells the story of two high-school sweethearts, Antonio and Natasha, living in Harlem.” —B*tch Media

Upstate starts out strong and never lets go.” —Chicago Tribune

“Wild and beautiful…told using the epistolary form with brilliant skill not seen since The Color Purple.” —Sapphire, author of Push and The Kid

“Heartbreaking and true. I’d read it again just for the power of the language.” —Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

“Intimate, wrenching.” —Achy Obejas, author of Ruins and The Tower of the Antilles

“A literary gem.” —E. Lynn Harris, author of What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

“Creative, raw and honest.” —Darnella Ford, author of Rising

“Real and raw in its humor and tragedy.” —Zelda Lockhart, Hurston-Wright Award winner and author of Fifth Born

“Fluent, candid, and colloquial.” —Publishers Weekly

Upstate is a coming-of-age tale filled with tragedy, despair and hope.” —Toronto Sun

“Ripe with unforgettable characters and two entrancing voices.” —Audio Publishers Association

“In prose that brilliantly captures the way real kids in Harlem speak, Kalisha Buckhanon reveals not only her characters’ Romeo and Juliet-like ardor, but also their intelligence and ambition.” —Bookpage

“A powerful novel that has capabilities to cross generations.” —Reviewers Bookwatch

“Poignant, compelling and luminous.” —APOO Book Reviews

Upstate breaks hearts and offers hope.” —Uptown

“A story that is well worth the telling.” —Black Issues Book Review

“A rare audiobook find whose voices linger in the mind long after the final chapter.” —AudioFile Magazine

“By structuring her story in the epistolary form, [Buckhanon] gives it an intimacy and urgency that the best tales always have.” —London Independent on Sunday

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