In Keisha’s Shadow

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inkeishasshadow_lg Sandra Barret

Young Adult

204 pp. ● 5.06×7.81
$12.95 (Pb) ● $6.95 (eb)
ISBN 978-1-934452-83-7 (pb)
● 978-1-934452-84-4 (eb)

JUVENILE FICTION – People & Places – United States – African American
FICTION – Lesbian
FICTION – Coming of Age

About the Book

Dumped by her high school sweetheart for not being out and proud, bi-racial Tori Kahl struggles with college life, her demanding mother, and the legacy of her dead sister, Keisha. Her only escape comes from her horse and her job at the stables. Then Ashley, the brash and flirty new boarder, shows up at the stables and not only challenges Tori’s top rider status, but shakes her world of self-pity as she copes with the ups and downs of growing up.


“In Keisha’s Shadow is Barret’s third novel and shows much growth in topic-tackling and relevance. There are several things this genre seldom sees. It deals with non-white characters. The protagonist’s peer group is not all gay, nor are all the antagonists homophobic. It is firmly set in a reality and has several messy interrelationships as a consequence which is refreshing.” – Lara Zielinsky, Queer Magazine Online


“This young adult story is packed with the kinds of issues that young people grapple with—difficult issues that are hard to read about and hard to think about. However, Barret presents the topics with sensitivity and an awareness that will bring any reader to a better understanding of the emotional struggles involved in growing up in the modern world. Young women struggling with the same issues that Tori and Ashley do, will find In Keisha’s Shadow a story of redemption and hope. And while the story has appeal for young women, it will speak to and enlighten anyone of any age.” – Anna Furtado, Just About Write


“You’re jealous,” Jackie said.

“What? No, I’m not.” Tori pulled out a notebook from her backpack, placed it on the classroom table, and pretended to read.

Jackie reached over and flipped it shut. “You are so jealous. I know you, Tori Kahl. And that’s your jealous face.”

She pulled her notebook out of Jackie’s reach. “What the hell is a jealous face?”

Jackie leaned on the table. “You get all squinty-eyed. I’ve seen it before.”

“Well, I’m not jealous now. If Michelle prefers to spend all her time with some chubby English rider and her fancy new horse, so what?”

“Uh-uh. Nope. That’s not jealous.”

She leaned past Jackie to poke Matt in the shoulder. “Can’t you control your girlfriend?”

The gangly redhead looked up from the book he was reading. “Huh? What?”

“Never mind.” For the first time, ever, she wished history class would start on time. She was not jealous of Ashley and Michelle.

“So how fat is this new girl?” Jackie asked.

“Huh? Ashley? I didn’t say she was fat.”


“Well, she’s big, you know. For a show rider.” She felt a twinge of guilt for picking on Ashley, but she was dominating most of Michelle’s free time, and she was flirting with Michelle. A lot.

Jackie stared at her. “You mean she’s not stick thin like the rest of the pre-pubescent girls who go to horse shows.”

“Hey. I’m not stick thin or pre-pubescent.” Tori stuck out her sizable chest to prove it.

“No, but not every girl can be blessed with not so much as an ounce of body fat like you. As a lesbian, I’d have thought you’d be more accepting of the varieties of women’s bodies.”

“I am.”

“So am I.” Matt’s green eyes lit up.

That earned him a smack on the shoulder from Jackie. “Yeah, you both sound it. When was the last time someone described a woman as Rubenesque and you thought, oh, sexy?”

Tori stifled a laugh. “When was the last time anyone called a woman Rubenesque, period? Not all of us are art-major wanna-bes.”

“Funny, ha, ha. Who would have thought that a lesbian could be sexist?” Jackie crossed her arms.

She didn’t get a chance to respond as their history teacher entered the room with a stack of graded exams under her arm. She didn’t care if Ashley was heavy. She crossed her own arms and frowned. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t jealous because she didn’t get crushes on straight women. Michelle was definitely straight, and too bad if Ashley was too thick to figure that out on her own.

An hour and a half later, Matt ran off to his next class, while she and Jackie walked toward the cafeteria. She crumpled the exam and tossed it in the first trash can she found. The sunny day didn’t seem so sunny to her anymore—not with her second D in History. Her mother’s voice echoed in her mind, harping once again on what a waste Tori was and how she’d never get anywhere in life. She didn’t have Robyn around to bail her out anymore. No more study sessions that actually involved studying.

No more study sessions that didn’t involve studying either. Tori needed a distraction. They walked past the bookstore, lined with a row of free magazines and newspapers outside the door, and she grabbed one.

“‘The Job Finder’?” Jackie asked as they settled at a table outside the cafeteria.

“I need money.” She pushed her backpack under the table and started flipping through the newspaper.

Jackie read over her shoulder. “‘Work from home. Earn over $1000 a month.’ You don’t believe that hype, do you?”

“No.” Tori flipped the pages faster, but most of the ads were similar money-making schemes. Hawking someone’s trash wasn’t the kind of job she’d be good at. Flipping burgers was more her speed. She slapped the last page down and sunk her head to the table. “It’s October already. The stores must be hiring for the Christmas rush.”

“Why the big push for money? I thought your parents were paying for college.”

Tori lifted her head. “That’s the problem. If I don’t get top grades like Keisha did, they’ll make my life hell. Maybe if I made enough money, I could pay my own tuition.” Maybe even move out. Then her mother would have to hunt her down to bitch her out. That was more effort than the shrew would expend on her behalf. She knew getting a job and making enough money was a pipe dream, but it gave her something to focus on besides her dismal history grade and her inability to let go of the girl who dumped her.