by Kristen Gentry
West Virginia University Press, 2023
eISBN: 978-1-952271-99-1 | Paper: 978-1-952271-98-4
Library of Congress Classification PS3607.E569M36 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.6


“A celebration of Black family life that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)​
“The collection will reshape what you think about the region and the people that inhabit it.” —Debutiful

“Surprising and revelatory. . . . I love this book.” —Stephanie Powell Watts, author of No One Is Coming to Save Us
“This book has staying power.” —Crystal Wilkinson, author of Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts

Original stories of Black family life in Louisville, Kentucky, for readers of Dantiel Moniz (Milk Blood Heat) and Kai Harris (What the Fireflies Knew).

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 bats invade Zaria’s new home, 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 with her absent mother and the wild ways that consumed her.

Mama Said separates from 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.