Kalisha Buckhanon is a reader, novelist, essayist, blogger, story and play writer, teacher, activist, TV commentator, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, vegetarian, yoga practitioner, creative soul and humbled spirit. She was born the eldest of four siblings in Kankakee, Illinois, and grew up surrounded by large families on both sides while attending public school. A product of married teen parents, old time religion, and good public schools, she takes as her primary subject matter the lives, families, love affairs, struggles and triumphs of everyday Black people living in America.
At 18 she moved to Hyde Park in Chicago for a Bachelor's Degree in English Language and Literature from University of Chicago. She assisted an upperclassmen in resurrecting the University's sole minority publication Black Light. She served on committees to bring more blacks to campus such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Angela Davis, John Edgar Wideman, Sonia Sanchez and Derek Walcott. She became an Andrew Mellon/Mays Minority Undergraduate Fellow, researching Black women's literature and film under the guidance of professors Kenneth Warren, Jacqueline Stewart and Deborah Nelson. In her sophomore year she met a new Dean of Students and college mentor in Michelle Obama, and worked on Senator Barack Obama's Congressional campaigns under now-alderman Will Burns. A magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The College, she took her Masters Degree in English Language and Literature at University of Chicago later as part of study in its Humanities Department PhD program.
Kalisha also holds a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from New School University in New York City.
Her first novel, Upstate, was her M.F.A. thesis supervised by the author Sapphire. Upstate won the 2006 American Library Association ALEX Award and was nominated for a 2006 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation Legacy Award in Debut Fiction. Terry McMillan selected Kalisha to receive the Terry McMillan Young Author Award at the 2006 National Book Club Conference, and she was named one of Essence Magazine's 'Three Writers to Watch' in 2005. The Upstate audio production, narrated by actors Chadwick Boseman and Heather Simms, won the 2006 Audie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literary Fiction. The novel was published in the UK and France.
Her second novel, Conception, received the Adult Literature Award from Friends of American Writers for the best work of fiction representing the Midwest as a piece of Americana. For Conception, Washington Post Book World called Kalisha a "gifted young novelist." Both Upstate and Conception are Young Adult Library Services Association selections for youth and reluctant readers, and won Audiofile Magazine's Earphones Award for their audiobook productions. Kalisha's other writing honors include an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Prose for her historical novel manuscript entitled The Junction. She won a Bessie Head/Zora Neale Hurston Fiction Award at the Gwendolyn Brooks Black Writer's Conference for her short story "Card Parties."
As a features journalist, Kalisha has created profiles on JET Magazine features editor Clarence Waldron, actor Morris Chestnut, the late vaudeville legend Earnest "Brownie" Brown, Chicago tap dance leader Bril Barrett, Emmy Award-winning choreographer and tap dancer Jason Samuels-Smith, jazz songtress Maggie Brown, avante-garde saxophonist David Boykin, and publicist/activist Terrie Williams. Some places her stories and essays appear are Michigan Quarterly Review, Fiction International, Black Renaissance Noire, Kweli, Per Contra, pluck! Journal of Afrillachian Arts and Culture, Hermeneutic Chaos, She Knows, BlogHer, Clutch, xoJane, Intellectual Refuge, The London Independent, Black Issues Book Review and Black MBA Magazine, where she was once Assistant Editor.
Kalisha has taught literacy, creative writing and humanities in Chicago, New York City and Kankakee Community College in her birthplace. She served as a writing mentor with the PEN American Center's Prison Writing Program, working with previously incarcerated women. She has studied acting and playwriting at such places as University of Chicago Theater and Performance Studies program and ETA Creative Arts Foundation, where she performed from and workshopped her play Journey to Mecca retitled as Conjugal Visits. She has also appeared as a commentator for crime and justice shows on ID Channel, BET and TV-One.
Kalisha currently teaches a Spirit of Writing course as fiction faculty of The Eckleburg Workshops and writes at her blog www.Negression.com. Her third novel Solemn, called "a hypnotic tale" by Kirkus Reviews, is published by St. Martin's Press in May 2016. You may visit her at www.Kalisha.com.
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