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A witty and inspiring collection of short stories, through “Some Soul to Keep,” J. California Cooper teaches her readers a thing or two about love. Funny, open, and soothing, this book encourages the broken heart to heal, and solid, real love to grow.

Readers have compared this book and the other works of Cooper’s to Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” and find within this novel the same struggle and pain that characters in “Purple” endured. This common thread of black female suffering and eventual triumph does help connect the two writers; in fact, Walker was among the first of Cooper’s fans, and encouraged the award-winning playwright to transform her powerful stage plays into fiction. Cooper’s success as a fiction writer and novelist followed her stellar theater career…by 1990, she had written over 17 stage plays!

Cooper, whose birth name is Joan California Cooper, decided to initialize her name after too many fans (whom she still considered strangers) referred to her personally by calling her “Joan.” Indeed, little is known about the personal, pre-fame details of her life, other than the fact that she was born in Berkley, California, and has a daughter. Cooper won the Black Playwright of the Year Award in 1978, and the prestigious American Library Association’s Literary Lion Award in 1988. A fiercely private individual, Cooper’s work speaks when she herself does not, and readers anticipate more soulful, folksy masterpieces from this reclusive literary star in the future.

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S. Willis is a native Virginian. She is the author of a children’s book, “The Little Adventures of Bella and DJ,” which will be released in May 2011 (visit www.WordsByWillis.com to pre-order).

Want to recommend a book for S. Willis to review? Email your suggestions to: Samantha@wordsbywillis.com