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Articles + Essays
Spring/Summer 2018

Locked Gray / Linked Blue: A Review

by Matthew B. Kelley

Locked Gray/Linked Blue (Brain Mill Press, 2018) is a short story collection that is sure to move its readers with a force that is as subtle as the emotions that flow through each of the thirteen stories are potent.

             Kem Joy Ukwu’s debut collection is a conversation on the forms that love can take in the quiet lives of ordinary people. The collection is split into two sections – Locked Gray and Linked Blue. Locked Gray begins with “Demetrius,” a story between two half-sisters and the love that is grown from absence and duty. The rest of the section is a series of love stories. Not your conventional love stories, however. Love stories that are forcing the reader to see love in all the subtle ways the world has ignored love to exist. Like in the story “Proposed,” Wallace, in trying to get the main character Olive to marry him, gives this reason for marriage:


          “You’re something I thought I would never have again,” Wallace says … “A pretty good friend. I can be one to you.”


           This pointed view of relationships and love is filled between each line of the rest of the section and is inverted in the next section, Linked Blue. Relationships are stressed and tested showing the underbellies of some of our most sacred bonds. An estranged mother and daughter are bound once more through the mother’s wedding ceremony in “Maid Adrift.” And in the ultimate story, “Her Mother, Nneka,” the half-sisters from the first story are revisited, this time from the other sister’s perspective.


            Throughout each of these stories is a view into the quiet lives of people we could walk past every day. Kem’s debut is one to pay attention—as she is a new author with a fresh perspective and a sight for beauty in all the places it might manifest.


Click here to read “Paying,” from Locked/Gray Linked Blue and Issue I. of Auburn Avenue. Order Kem’s debut collection here. 

Matthew B. Kelley is a writer and teacher raised in Atlanta, GA. He received a BS in Chemistry from Morehouse College. He has received writing fellowships from Kimbilio Fiction and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. He currently teaches Chemistry at Langston Hughes High School in Atlanta, GA. and is Fiction Editor at Auburn Avenue

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