So We Can Glow



By Leesa Cross-Smith

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A lush, glittering short story collection exploring female obsession and desire by an award-winning author Roxane Gay calls "a consummate storyteller."

From Kentucky to the California desert, these forty-two short stories — ranging from the 80's and 90's to present day — expose the hearts of girls and women in moments of obsessive desire and fantasy, wildness and bad behavior, brokenness and fearlessness, and more.

On a hot July night, teenage girls sneak out of the house to meet their boyfriends by the train tracks. Members of a cult form an unsettling chorus as they proclaim their adoration for the same man. A woman luxuriates in a fantasy getaway to escape her past. A love story begins over cabbages in a grocery store, and a laundress's life is consumed by her obsession with a baseball star. After the death of a sister, two high school friends kiss all night and binge-watch Winona Ryder movies.

Leesa Cross-Smith's sensuous stories — some long, some gone in a flash, some told over text and emails — drench readers in nostalgia for summer nights and sultry days. They recall the intense friendships of teenage girls and the innate bonds between mothers, the first heady rush of desire, and the pure exhilaration of womanhood, all while holding up the wild souls of women so they can catch the light.


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We, Moons

We’re not depressed all the time, some of us aren’t even depressed sometimes. We’re okay, our hearts, dusted with pink. When we cry in bathrooms together it’s about men or our mothers or our fathers or our bodies. We are resilient, none of us have attempted suicide, although we do at times imagine what it would be like to have never been born. Is that sadness? Is that regret? We love men. We are ashamed of this attraction. We, the ones who aren’t lesbians or asexual, wish we were; we fantasize about lesbian communes or asexual communes. We take the curse of Genesis 3:16 to heart. Isn’t it a curse to want a man? Didn’t God intend that after the fall? We feel cursed. We are Eve. We develop crushes on men we’ll never meet, men in magazines. We prefer our men to remain onscreen where they cannot hurt us. We, protected by those alien-beams of light, that space glass. We envision those men down on their knees before us, looking up at us, smiling. We pat their heads and call them good boys. We use them. We crave and desire them. We leave them whether they want us to or not. We wear their clothes because they smell like them and we let the sleeves hang long past our wrists. We swear to one another we won’t call or text them during our Girls’ Weekend. We try to keep our word. We try really hard. They call us, they text us, they send us pictures of the flowers they’d have delivered to us if only they knew where we were. We are in the mountains or on the beach or at a grandmother’s home; the grandmother has passed and left it to us, left us her journals and her cake recipes, left us the blankets and sweaters she knit, the quilts and tea-stained books she read when she was young like us. We are not young, but we are younger than our grandmothers. We are young enough to still have our periods. We bleed together when the moons are death-darked and new, ovulate under the full ones. Their fierce, primal, ancient names connect us to the women who came before and all those who will come after: wolf, snow, worm, pink, flower, strawberry, buck, sturgeon, harvest, hunter’s, beaver, cold. If we had been in charge of naming the moons, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Some of us are mothers, some of us have miscarried, some of us have no desire to bear children in our dark and starry wombs. Where do we go for emotional rescue? Where do we go to feel safe? Where do we go to escape the men who would rape and murder us, the men who would kidnap us, the men who would torture us, the men who would, the men who, the men. We are complete without them but we want them anyway. We love them but we want to hide from them. We drink champagne and wine and whiskies and stay up too late smoking. We eat dark chocolate brownies and coconut cakes and wake up and fry eggs with butter and chilies. We lock our doors at night and keep our secrets. We howl at the moon and paint our toenails with glitter and make promises, free before we leave. We return to our homes and our children and our jobs. We return to those men, the ones who keep us, the ones we are afraid of, the ones who would never harm us, the ones who protect us. We know they desire us, they are cursed with wanting to be inside of us. We are wild and cannot be tamed. They are cursed with wanting to tame us. They want us to be witches so they can burn us. They burn with lust for us. We use our own lust-flames to fuel us and keep us warm. We are better at this than they are. We read and write our books, sing our songs, scream our screams, and fall easily into the arms of a God who loves us. We fight a God who loves us. We beg for forgiveness for we know not what we do. We know what we are doing. We run away and want to be found. We want to disappear. We want to be seen. We search our breasts for lumps so our breasts won’t kill us, our cervices for tumors. We scan our bodies for poison, never knowing. We feed our babies with these bodies and offer our bodies to the men we desire and the men take and take and take and we give and give and give. We are handmaidens and helpmeets and neither of those things. We are created in the image of a God who can be both man or woman or neither. No empty vessels; we are achingly full, spilling over. And when we die, our souls pour out like water.

The Great Barrier Reef Is
Dying but So Are We

Minnie and her husband Adam were unusually quiet on their way home from the theatre. Adam was the actor, the star. Adam had to kiss his costar Caitriona during the play because it was in the script.

“Did you want something to eat?” Adam finally asked.

“I don’t care,” Minnie said, staring out the window.

“Chinese? Greek? Maybe a burger?” Adam asked, pointing to the restaurants as they passed them.

“Well, too late now. There they go,” Minnie said, fussily flicking her hand and waving to the restaurants, their signs. Shadows of people. Lurking. Waiting. Too hungry or too full.

“I can go back,” he said, tapping the brake gently. Slowing.

“Nope. I’ll eat something at home.”

“Are you angry with me?” he asked as he let off the brake, gunned the car forward.

It was late. A Thursday night hinting at a stormy early morning. As they’d walked out of the theatre, the sky had been a black-violet dream. The diamond stars, out just long enough to evoke wonder, were now hidden with the moon.

Minnie went into her purse, felt for the cool chunk of rose quartz in the little zippered pouch. Right there next to the earrings she had taken out after they got too heavy. Right there next to her three favorite lipglosses. The colors made her hungrier. Grape. Tomato. Peach.

“I’m going to practice downstairs when we get home. I mean, sorry if you need to sleep, but I need to learn this piece,” she said. Minnie played cello in a string quartet. She was playing a wedding tomorrow night. Her best friend, Stella, one of the violinists, had composed a new arrangement of a Nat King Cole song for them to add to their repertoire. It was the summer wedding season and the next four weekends were booked.

“That’s fine. I understand,” he said.

She wrapped her fingers around the crystal, loving the weight of it. The flats, the points.

“I know you get upset sometimes when I have to kiss Caitriona—”

“It’s your job, right?” Minnie snapped.

“Yes. It is my job, but I don’t want you to be upset—”

Adam spoke softly, came to a full stop at the sign before turning right. They were ten minutes from home.

“What does her mouth taste like?” Minnie asked, looking over at him.

Adam made a noise. Not a sigh. Something wearier.

“Minnie, I don’t taste her mouth. It’s a stage kiss. It’s a totally different thing,” he said.

“I know what a stage kiss is,” she said.

“Okay, then you know it’s not like a sexual thing. We are pretending to be lovers. Caitriona plays my wife. That’s all.”

Minnie’s stomach growled so loudly it hurt.

“But the two of you dated before, so it’s not all pretend,” Minnie said, using air quotes around pretend. She was effectively annoying herself and could only imagine how Adam felt about her at that moment. He probably wanted the car ride to be over like she did. Adam ran a yellow light, which endeared him to her. She could never be attracted to a man who would stop as soon as a light turned yellow.

“Twenty years ago, Minnie. Cat and I dated twenty years ago and we didn’t even sleep together. You know this. We’ve been over this. It’s exhausting,” Adam said.

You’re exhausting is what he meant. And she’d never believed they hadn’t slept together anyway.

*  *  *

Adam and Caitriona had dated in the nineties and that was what made Minnie the most jealous. Caitriona had known him then, when Minnie hadn’t. There was a picture of them Minnie had pinned to the walls of her brain, couldn’t untack it even when she tried. Adam, with a red-plaid flannel tied around his waist, his black-framed glasses not unlike the pair he wore now. Caitriona, next to him in her flowered Doc Martens and ripped jeans. They were at a Pearl Jam concert and Adam was smoking because he smoked back then. Caitriona was wide-mouthed, surely laughing at something Adam had said. Adam was funny in the nineties and Adam was still funny now. But now Adam was forty-five, not twenty-five. Now, Adam was a father and an AP History teacher. He and Minnie had a twelve-year-old daughter, a thirteen-year-old marriage, a thirty-year mortgage. He and Minnie had met right as the nineties were dipping out and Y2K fears were slipping in and every time she thought about that picture, she felt like she’d missed out on something in his life before her. Caitriona had known Adam when he was a smoker, when he had beery breath, when he tied flannel shirts around his waist and listened to music, not just NPR. Caitriona had known Adam when they were both learning the lyrics to RENT, when Adam had played Roger in the local production. Caitriona had played Mimi. While Adam was living his superstar-laidback-local-theatre life, Minnie had been in school, getting her music degree with a cello emphasis.

Cat. Minnie hated when Adam called Caitriona Cat.

Minnie was cultured too. One of her cello teachers had called her a rare talent once and Minnie had almost wanted to get it printed on a sticker and slap it across her orange hard case.

*  *  *

Minnie felt mousey in the passenger seat. She glanced at Adam. He looked tired. They’d go home, pay the babysitter. Adam would have a small glass of whiskey and ice before taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes, falling asleep on the couch watching one of the West Coast baseball games while Minnie played her cello downstairs. She was angry with him and knew how ridiculous that was. She still wanted to have sex with him. Minnie’s stomach growled again.

“So, you’re on hunger strike because I get paid to kiss Cat every night? You think I don’t ever get jealous of you and Connor going all over the countryside together, playing at these romantic events like some kind of…sexual troubadours?” Adam asked, pushed his glasses up.

“Sexual troubadours? Really? Wow,” Minnie managed to say before laughing loudly.

“Absolutely, sexual troubadours. You and Connor drinking wine and rambling through the forest!”

Adam stopped at a red light and looked at her.

Rambling through the forest? With a cello? Adam, for the love, give it a rest. Oh and don’t forget there are two other women with us…it’s a quartet!”

“More like a duet,” he said.

“Really? You think we, what, use a time machine and go back to the High Middle Ages every weekend?”

“Caitriona and I have been working together for years. You know her. I barely know anything about Connor.”

“You know plenty about him!”

“I know the guy plays the viola, that’s all.”

“He’s been to our house, you’ve met his wife.”

“I don’t taste Cat’s mouth when I kiss her,” he said as the light turned green.

You’re exhausting,” Minnie said to him, before he could say it to her.

*  *  *

Adam paid the babysitter and did everything Minnie knew he would do. She went upstairs, changed into her pajamas, came down and sat on the other side of the couch, put her arm around Ivy who was nursing a small mug of chamomile like an old woman. Adam had the ballgame turned down low and sipped at his whiskey. Minnie had reheated last night’s ziti and cheese and finished it, standing in the kitchen. Adam had made himself a roast beef and cheddar cheese sandwich, the crusts bordering the small plate he’d balanced on the arm of the couch. Minnie looked at her phone, saw a text from Connor. A question about the new music. She put it down without responding.

“Daddy, who are you for?” Ivy asked. Her voice was sleepy. She sat on Minnie, snuggled up to her even tighter. They’d been attachment parents, Minnie slinging Ivy wherever they would go when she was a baby, breastfeeding her until she was two years old. Ivy had slept on Minnie exclusively until she was five months old. Because of that, Ivy tended to sit on Minnie or Adam, like she was hatching them. Minnie felt a bit guilty being overstimulated by it and made sure she set aside some time at night to let Ivy sit on her, knowing it wasn’t Ivy’s fault they’d raised her that way. Ivy especially loved perching on Minnie when she was sleepy.

“Tonight? Let’s go with the Rangers,” Adam said. He was a Cubs fan but they weren’t playing.

“I’m for the Angels,” Ivy said.

“Me too,” Minnie tacked on.

Adam looked at them, drank his whiskey.

“You should never root against angels, Daddy,” Ivy warned.

“Of course not,” Adam said, giving up too easily.

“Ivy, scoot off to bed. I have to practice downstairs,” Minnie said.

“But I want Daddy to tell me about the play.”

Ivy got up and plopped into Adam’s lap. It was his turn to be hatched.

“Ten minutes,” Minnie said to both of them before getting up and going downstairs.

*  *  *

Minnie closed the basement door, got out her cello. She ran through the pieces they always played at the weddings, the pieces she could play in her sleep, to warm up her fingers. Tchaikovsky, Bach. In between, she heard Adam’s deep voice murmuring upstairs, followed by Ivy’s giggles and conversation. Minnie pulled out the new sheet music, stared at it until her eyes went out of focus, until the black notes slipped down the white page and blurred away. Ivy tapped gently on the basement door and Minnie told her to come down.

“Night, Mommy,” Ivy said, hugging her neck.

“Goodnight, pigeon.” Minnie put her arms around her daughter, kissed the top of her head.

Ivy went up, closed the door again.

Minnie had taken her phone downstairs in the pocket of her pajama pants. She pulled it out and texted Connor.

Wanna FaceTime this new piece?

She imagined Connor in bed already, his wife sleeping next to him. Minnie pictured his face, lit up with the phone light, reading her text. She rosined her bow, tuned. Waited for Connor to text her. If Adam had ever come right out and asked Minnie if she had a crush on Connor, Minnie would have told Adam yes. But Adam hadn’t asked. Adam wasn’t even particularly jealous. Everything he did was a reaction to Minnie, her jealousy. And Minnie liked to lean into the lion’s mouth of her jealousy, let it snap shut.

She was in the lion’s mouth when she got a response from Connor.

Fuck yeah!

She smiled, looking at his fuck yeah. Exclamation point. She thought of his mouth shaping the words and her thighs warmed. She considered Adam dozing off on the couch upstairs, his glasses on the small table next to him. She could hear the low mutter of the TV, the baseball commentary, the rhythmic clapping. Something important must’ve been happening. Minnie pulled her hair up, a sloppy bun at the crown, smoothed the strays behind her ears. She was wearing an old T-shirt she’d gotten on their honeymoon, now ratty and worn, with a big faded pineapple on the front of it. It was her favorite, the softest. She answered when she saw her phone screen light up.

“Heyyy there, Minnie Mouse,” Connor said.

“Hey,” she said, wondering if Adam could hear her or if he really was sleeping. She thought about going upstairs to check but decided not to.

She could see that Connor was wearing a ratty T-shirt too and a pair of sweatshorts. Minnie’s desire flickered at the intimacy of it. Connor usually practiced in his basement too. His was finished like theirs, with cushy carpet and a row of paperbacks and college textbooks behind him.

“You want to play it together to see what we’ve got?” he asked.

“Okay,” she said, suddenly feeling quiet. She’d wanted to see his face on her phone, she wanted to play, but now she was tired. Tired of everything.

“I was drinking a vodka tonic. A vodka tonic with lime,” Connor said.

“Are you drunk?” she asked.

“Off one vodka tonic? I’m offended.”

“Well, I don’t know how many you’ve had!”

“Oh, Minnie Mouse, are you in a fussy mood? Have you eaten?”

“Yes, I’ve eaten! Stop that! I’m fine,” she said, laughing lightly.

“You’re the WORST when you’re hangry,” he said, readjusting his camera so he could sit in his chair properly. He put his viola underneath his chin. He looked buzzed, his hair bed-headish. She’d seen him buzzy and drunk before and easily recognized the familiar wide, sheepish grin.

“Are we going to play this or are you going to bug me instead?”

“I may be a little drunk,” Connor admitted. He let his viola rest on his knee, looked right into his phone camera. He made a tiny space between his thumb and forefinger.

“Asshole,” Minnie said.

Connor lifted his viola, put it under his chin again and played the beginning of the new piece perfectly. Minnie watched, listened. Then he played Beyoncé’s “Halo” for her too. They played it together at weddings sometimes. It was one of Minnie’s favorites. Afterward, Connor put his viola on the floor next to him, picked up his phone, looked into the camera.

Minnie covered her face, turned the phone away.

“Hey, are you okay? What’s going on?” Connor’s voice said out at her.

“Nothing. I’m fine,” she said. She was crying. She sniffed.

“Well, turn the damn phone around so I can see you please. You don’t sound fine. Wilhelmina!”

She wiped her eyes, turned the phone around.

“Wilhelmina, why are you sad?” Connor asked. He relaxed his body, leaning back and balancing his left ankle on his right knee.

“I’m not. It’s the song.”

“Where’s Adam?”

“Upstairs.” Minnie used the collar of her shirt to wipe her eyes some more.

“What else are you thinking about?” Connor asked.


Minnie sniffed again and with her tender, wavy, cry-voice, told Connor she wanted to run through the piece a couple times. So they did and they sounded lovely together. It would sound even better tomorrow with both violins. Minnie and Connor sat there looking at one another for a little too long.

“All right, little Minnie Mouse…I guess I’m going to hit the hay,” Connor said as he put his viola in the case. Minnie caught a glimpse of the plush, gold lining. He lay down on the floor, his head leaning against his hand.

“Connor, do you think Adam is having an affair with Caitriona?” Minnie asked, lowering her voice and leaning closer to her screen. She blew her nose and left the tissue in a small, tight ball next to her foot. She turned, double-checking the basement door, knowing full-well Adam slept like the dead. Connor didn’t know-know Caitriona but he’d seen her around enough at the theatre, the art center, the city.

“What?” He shook his head.

“You heard me.”

“No, I do not think Adam is having an affair with Caitriona.”

“Do you want to sleep with her?”

“Do I want to sleep with Caitriona?”

Minnie tilted her head to make sure she couldn’t hear Adam upstairs. No. But she lowered her voice even more.

“You know what I mean…is Caitriona the kind of woman a man would have an affair with?” Minnie asked, knowing it was a ridiculous question. Anyone could obviously have an affair with anyone.

“Are you wondering if I find her attractive?” Connor asked.

“I guess…yeah.”

“Are you wondering if I find her more attractive than you?” Connor asked.

“What? No!”

“Sure you are. You’re asking me whether or not…as a man…I’d want to trade you in for a woman like Caitriona and the answer is no,” he said.

Minnie stared at the screen and watched Connor blink at her. He smiled, blinked. They were quiet together, connected by the electric-blued light.

“You’re only saying that to make me feel better.”

“I’m not,” Connor said, folding his arm behind his head, adjusting his phone.

“I thought you were going to bed.”

“I was! But then you started flirting with me so I got a second wind,” he said, laughing.

“Connor! I was not! Go to bed,” she said.

“No. You go to bed.”

“Where’s Samantha?” Minnie asked after his wife.


“Where are the boys?” Minnie asked after his sons.


“Tonight Adam called us sexual troubadours.”

“Wait, what? Called who sexual troubadours? You and me?” Connor sat up, laughed again. Connor was always laughing. It made Minnie laugh. She put her hand over her mouth before shushing him and turning her phone volume down.

“He said we were more like a duet. He only said it because I was jealous of him kissing Caitriona…in the play.”

“Aaand because they used to date.”

“But never slept together,” Minnie mumbled.

“But you never told him we slept together,” Connor said.

Minnie’s toes twinkled.

“That was a long time ago,” she said softly.

“Right,” he said.

*  *  *

It happened one night after a wedding, traveling. The quartet was three hundred and fifty miles away. The women got one hotel room, Connor got another. The other two women had gotten drunk and fallen asleep. Minnie was sober, awake, went across the hall to Connor’s room.

It was one of those nights Minnie was feeling lonely although she hadn’t been alone much in days. Ivy was always either sitting on her or underneath her or Minnie had been giving cello lessons to the middle schoolers she always gave them to, or she and Adam were either next to one another in bed or next to one another on the couch or next to one another in the kitchen. But Adam also had rehearsals, work, more rehearsals. He and Caitriona had just begun rehearsals for the play they were in now. The play that had a total of two cast members.

  1. Adam.
  2. Caitriona.

Minnie truly believed Adam was in love with Caitriona even though he denied it and even though he was always good to Minnie. She couldn’t shake it, like she had an allergy to not believing it. And she didn’t want to talk to Connor about that, but she wanted to be close to someone. Adam was three hundred and fifty miles away at home with Ivy. Sometimes when Minnie played weddings they got a babysitter and Adam came with her, the two of them driving home together in the dark, her heels slipped off and cornered on the floor of the car next to her black, slick-footed stockings.

She tapped on Connor’s door and he opened without asking who it was—the luxury and privilege of being a man.

“Minnie Mouse! Fancy meeting you here. What’s up?” he said, his voice bright with alcohol.

“I can’t sleep,” she said.

“My room is your room,” he said, ushering her in. He closed the door behind them.


  • "Though the 42 stories here often masquerade as slices of domestic life, the scale of the emotional trajectories is treated with the weight of the epic. They are sexy and sly. The dialogue winks and sparks on the page, making every story feel like a flirt. The collection overloads the senses . . . Cross-Smith's descriptions are filled with equal amounts of violence and tenderness . . . Throughout, characters from earlier stories reappear to nudge us in the ribs, these rewarding inside jokes building depth and resonance. It is the strength of the female characters, though, that truly binds this collection together . . . The woman throughout this collection are constantly being revealed by a powerful inner light."
    New York Times Book Review
  • "Leesa Cross-Smith is such a beguiling writer and her skills are on full display in So We Can Glow. These are stories about breathless love, lustful abandon, all that glitters, hot summers, cool pavement, sticky skin, beautifully beating hearts. There is such authenticity to these stories and nostalgia that is tempered with just enough of a clear-eyed understanding of the world as it is, not just how we hoped it might be. It's also refreshing to see a writer crafting stories that are so unapologetically for women, about women, a love letter to who we are, the best and worst of us, held high and true, so we can glow as brightly as we dare."—Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author
  • "Leesa Cross-Smith writes the way many people wish they could: ferociously, tenderly, and with a tremendous amount of heart. The stories contained in So We Can Glow showcase the very best of Cross-Smith's voice. They stick with readers long after the book is closed. This collection is tantalizing and Cross-Smith is a delight."—Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things
  • "A joyous embracing of modern womanhood with all its pitfalls and landmines . . . This is short fiction that packs a wallop . . . It's easy to see more than a dash of everything good in these entertaining, spirited tales."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • "The magic of So We Can Glow is that no matter who you are, no matter your circumstances, no matter your gender identity, when reading this book you become the girls and women in these pages. You hope their hopes, dream their dreams, fantasize and love alongside them. Leesa Cross-Smith is some sort of sorceress."—Rion Amilcar Scott, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize-winning author of Insurrections and The World Doesn't Require You
  • "I so admire these stirring, sexy, haunting stories about the darkest corners of women's inner lives. A treat for the soul and the senses, and funny too. Leesa Cross-Smith is a wonderful storyteller."—Alexia Arthurs, award-winning author of How to Love a Jamaican
  • "So We Can Glow is precise and yearning in all the right ways. Cross-Smith understands sex and lust and love and all the ways they can get crossed up. Inventive in form, drifting from poetry to prose to script to smartphone text to receipt, Cross-Smith explores our affections, how they flourish or, more often, unravel, and her writing delivers this wisdom with blunt honesty and sex appeal to spare. It brings into existence secrets we didn't even know we had."—JM Holmes, award-winning author of How Are You Going to Save Yourself
  • "These stories, brief but dense with emotion, will make you feel like you're falling in love -- again and again and again. They drop the reader into moments that feel soaked with longing, like strawberries in champagne. Through Cross-Smith's characters, we experience the messiness, the ache, but mostly the glory of female desire."—Amy Bonnaffons, author of The Regrets and The Wrong Heaven
  • "Different as they are, all the stories focus on the strange hearts of women and girls -- brave and broken, longing and loving -- and weave together to create this structurally playful and lyrically rich second collection."—The Millions, "Most Anticipated: The Great First Half 2020 Book Preview"
  • "Examines -- and delights in -- female obsession and desire . . . nodding to the complicated, indelible bonds between women."—Buzzfeed, "The Most Anticipated Books of 2020"
  • "If you're in need of some summer vibes, look no further than this short story collection from Leesa Cross-Smith . . .the characters in these stories are fully realized and compelling. With a magic mix of the bonds between women, sensual detail, a dash of nostalgia, and a lot of heart, this collection is an engrossing read that's perfect for bringing some light into winter."—Electric Literature
  • "[A] rich collection . . . follows women exploring desire, desperation, and despair. The brief opener, 'We, Moons,' an explosion of slam cadence, serves as a battle hymn of self-determination and sisterhood that thematically unites the subsequent narratives . . . The delightfully idiosyncratic prose distinguishes each of the narrator's points of view within common themes of love, friendship, sex, and loyalty. These stories showcase the wide range of Cross-Smith's talent."—Publishers Weekly
  • "A multifaceted picture of female desire."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • "Already lauded as an engrossing collection...From friendships to motherly bonds, Cross-Smith writes about the experiences of women in a way that will both tug at your heart and have you you kiki'ing as well."—Refinery29
  • "The stories . . . feature vivid sensory detail; the author has a gift for describing smells in particular and using them to conjure emotion...the language is rich and the sentiment fresh . . . brilliant writing and insight."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "So We Can Glow is a hurricane! ... [Leesa Cross-Smith] gives women their entire spectrum of being! They are interesting and gentle and mean and introspective! They do not exist because of men and in fact the men exist because of them. Amen."—Monet Thomas, Interviews Editor for The Rumpus
  • "Perfect for summer."—Southern Living
  • "The stories are full of emotion, and about women and the things that we struggle with."—Jasmine Guillory, The Oprah Magazine, "The Best Books to Read While Social Distancing, According to Authors"
  • "The 42 stories in the collection come together to celebrate the power of a woman's desires."—Woman's Day
  • "Cross-Smith is an author...with a thrilling talent for language. This is a book about womanhood in all its luscious, secret and confounding incarnations...Regardless of length, these stories unfold intelligently but organically. More poetry than prose, if you don't know what it's like to be a woman when you start reading, you'll have a pretty good idea by the end."—Chatelaine
  • "Whether they serve as inspiration or warnings, these stories remind us of the exhilarating possibilities that arise from being fun-loving, fearless, humanly flawed -- and female. They offer us permission to not take ourselves too seriously and to laugh, let go and move on so we can glow -- and grow."Sisters from AARP
  • "Inventive. Authentic. Honest."—Craft Literary
  • "Leesa Cross-Smith is a consummate storyteller who uses her formidable talents to tell the oft-overlooked stories of people living in that great swath of place between the left and right coasts . . . Where she is most stunning is in the endings . . . creating crisp, evocative moments that will linger long after you've read this book's very last word."—Roxane Gay (praise for Every Kiss A War)
  • "A melodic debut . . . nuanced."—O, The Oprah Magazine, "Top Books of Summer" (praise for Whiskey & Ribbons)
  • "Cross-Smith's thrilling debut novel, Whiskey and Ribbons, is as immediate and compelling as music. Her three lovers tell their stories, each turning over what we think we know, creating a moving triptych on love, desire, and grief, and the unexpected families life makes for us."—Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night (praise for Whiskey & Ribbons)
  • "Beautiful and brutal, a gut-punch and a poem--I love this book. I love its characters, their complicated tangle of desire and grief. I love its craft, the back and forth dance between memory and possibility. I found myself talking aloud to Evangeline: Let go, I whispered. Or maybe she whispered it to me. I don't know. She's inside of me now, my head and my heart. I'll tell you what: Cross-Smith is a master."—Megan Stielstra, author of The Wrong Way to Save Your Life (praise for Whiskey & Ribbons)

On Sale
Jan 12, 2021
Page Count
288 pages

Leesa Cross-Smith

About the Author

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and the author of Every Kiss A War, Whiskey & Ribbons, So We Can Glow, This Close to Okay, and Half-Blown Rose. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and their two teenagers. Find more at

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