Bronxite Lorraine Avila’s ‘Celestial Summer’ Is An Ode To Black Women

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The fierce storyteller, author, and educator, Lorraine Avila, known for “Malcriada & Other Stories,” is back. This time around, she is giving the world “Celestial Summer.”

“Celestial Summer” was written for a wide variety of audiences. It can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to reimagine love, intimacy, vulnerability, and its structures. However, Avila wrote “Celestial Summer” with Black women at the forefront of her mind as she usually does when writing any of her stories. In fact, the book centers and speaks to Black folks directly. 

This book’s creation has been special, from the narrative’s meaning to the people working behind-the-scenes. Her team, for instance, is composed of Black Caribbean women, where Zahira-Kelly Cabrera is the illustrator, and Antoinette Thomas, the letterer of the book. 

Avila dug her inspiration from the reality that was donned to the world this year. Her thoughts during her writing of “Celestial Summer” were entangled in one of the darkest periods in her life. Quarantine and the tense social climate around Black lives, specifically Black femme lives, became daunting for her. She felt as if everything revolved around Black trauma. Her usual hobbies, such as watching a movie, weren’t offering her much of an escape, either. 

After suffering from a series of panic attacks and purging trauma, she opened herself up to a safe space. That experience motivated her to write “Celestial Summer” into existence — that’s the kind of power safe spaces hold if you’ve ever wondered. 

BELatina News was able to connect with Lorraine Avila to learn more about “Celestial Summer.” This is what she had to say:

What is “Celestial Summer” about?

“Celestial Summer,” tells the story of Layleen, a woman searching for ways to be held, and Keith, a man coming to terms with the reality of commitment. They are two characters who decide to let each other in and face their shadow selves to create an optimal space for the explosive and promising love the Universe is cooking up for them.  

How have your last books/projects differed from this one? 

Other than the format, “Malcriada & Other Stories,” being a collection of short stories, and “Celestial Summer” being a graphic novel, I would say “Celestial Summer” works to center joy and romantic love. 

Were there any different challenges writing your new book this time around?

Not at all. It took me about six years to write all the stories within “Malcriada & Other Stories.” It took me three months to draft “Celestial Summer” four times. I don’t know if it was due to the format or because I was re-imagining, but the writing happened without much force.

How have you kept yourself disciplined enough to write your books?

It doesn’t feel like I’ve been disciplined, so it always feels strange when from the outside looking in, that’s what it looks like. I quit teaching last year, so I’ve had more free time than I admit; however, I’ve also been dealing with real transitions. Honestly, any time my mind and moods seem to be all over the place, I find time to write. Some seasons, it becomes a habit, and so I can finish an entire book, but most times, the process is slow and frustrating.

Would you tell us some more about your past projects?

I have used my past projects as a way of releasing and shedding parts of myself, but Celestial Summer definitely feels like I am actively manifesting. Simply writing the story, I was writing my own future and what I believe I, and everyone, deserves.

“Celestial Summer” is a book that focuses on shifting realities that allow us to see Black characters thrive. If you ask me, we’ve needed more of these types of novels for a long time.

Sure, 2020 may have taken a lot of things from many of us, but let’s be open to accepting the story this book has to give us.  

To fully introduce this graphic novel into the world, Avila has launched a Kickstarter to cover the cost of production and printing of “Celestial Summer.” But most importantly, to pay the team for their labor. 

Please visit her Kickstarter page to support their campaign and share their page with everyone you know. The campaign is all or nothing, so make sure you make your way to her page sooner than later. 

If 2020 can give us anything back, it should be “Celestial Summer.”