Playwright Judy Juanita's debut novel highlights her time as Black Panther

'Virgin Soul' by Judy Juanita
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Playwright Judy Juanita is out with her debut semi-autobiographical novel, "The Virgin Soul," which follows a young woman who joins the Black Panther Party in San Francisco during the Civil Rights Movement.

The Los Angeles Times calls the book "a witty and deeply engaging coming-of-age story about ideas and the passions generated by revolution and romantic love."

The novel is based on her own experiences 40 years ago, she told the Times.

"I was very active in the Black Panther Party and in the Black Student Union and in the Black Studies Department at San Francisco State," she said. "A few years after that, looking back, I realized how historic it was. I started taking notes and writing down recollections: people's names, nicknames, everything I could remember. But I didn't have the chops to write a novel then. So I started taking writing workshops, writing poetry and taking play-writing workshops. Eventually, I had enough maturity to tackle the novel."

Juanita joins The Daily Circuit to discuss her first novel and what it means to be a black female writer today.

"I'm a storyteller," she said. "I love the tall tales, and in those lie a deeper truth ... I've always loved fiction from childhood, when I lost myself in fairy tales; when I was eight or whatever I would read them and just love them. I like tales, I like myths. Of course, I also love to read nonfiction, but I knew right away that this had to be told through a story."

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The Accidental Radical
"With my writing I want to be surprised. I want something that interests me. So my imagination takes me far afield of the actual facts. Also, I feel like you get at a deeper truth when you go more into the realm of fiction." (Publishers Weekly)

All The Women In My Family Read Terry McMillan
"It's ironic that black chick lit, street lit and urban fiction for a time represented the whole of contemporary black literature." (The Weeklings)

Fresh Ink: An Interview with Debut Novelist Judy Juanita
"When I first started going to poetry workshops, I met a poet who used only her first and middle initials in an attempt to hide her female identity to editors. We all knew who she was; she read her work openly; editors knew. I rejected that strategy off the bat. Women, people of color, the disenfranchised, have to fight for survival, let alone progress and artistic recognition." (Natalia Sylvester)