A Novel

by Jeffrey Colvin

On Sale: 12/10/2019


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A Novel

by Jeffrey Colvin

On Sale: 12/10/2019


Hurston/Wright Legacy Award

2021 Prix Littéraire Les Afriques

About the Book

For readers of Lawrence Hill and George Elliott Clarke, a ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry. Set in the small Nova Scotia town of Africville, settled by former slaves, Jeffrey Colvin depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time and fate.

A richly woven story, structured as a triptych, Africville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son, Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner—whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century, from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s, to the economic upheavals of the 1980s.

A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like the lives of her ancestors, Kath Ella’s is shaped by hardship as she struggles to conceive and to provide for her family during the long, bitter Canadian winters. She must also contend with the locals’ lingering suspicions about the dark-skinned “outsiders” who live in their midst.

Kath Ella’s fierce love for her son, Omar, cannot help her overcome the racial prejudices that linger in this remote, tight-knit place. As he grows up, the rebellious Omar refutes the past and decides to break from the family, threatening to upend all that Kath Ella and her people have tried to build. Over the decades, each successive generation drifts farther from Africville, yet they take a piece of this indelible place with them as they make their way to Montreal, Vermont and beyond, to the deep South of America.

As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place and the meaning of home, Africville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colourful details and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel—as atmospheric and steeped in history as Any Known Blood, The Known World, George & Rue, The Underground Railroad, Homegoing and The Book of Negroes—is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.


Critical Praise

“Wherever he roams, his heart (and ours) remains in the community of Woods Bluff, the collection of neighbourhoods that comprise his largely fictional Africville. Colvin intimately maps the town’s geography, traditions, politics and history, including the complicated, multigenerational relationships of its inhabitants.” — The Globe and Mail

“[Africville] feels epic in scope. Jeffry Colvin’s gift for storytelling is on full display in this remarkable debut. From his fresh depictions of a Nova Scotia Black community, to his powerful portrayal of the trials and triumphs of three generations of the Sebolt family, to his authentically rendered landscapes of racial conflict, both inter and intra, Colvin has crafted an immersive read.” — Diane McKinney-Whetstone, author Tumbling and Lazaretto

“Colvin’s intriguing and memorable debut shines a light on a little-known black experience: the freed slaves from the Caribbean and U.S. who established a community in Canada in the 1800s. [He] expertly weaves in the subject of owning one’s heritage. . . . This is a penetrating, fresh look at the indomitable spirit of black pioneers and their descendants.” — Publishers Weekly

"[Africville] turns history into an engaging family story, one that begins in Nova Scotia and then travels across North America. It's a gripping and moving book, one that illuminates the lives of those too often overlooked, turns their trails into something epic. Jeffrey Colvin writes with such affection and authority. I thought of the fine work of Esi Edugyan and Edward P. Jones and E.L. Doctorow, too. He deserves to be counted in their number and this is an excellent debut." — Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

“Colvin depicts the heartbreaking neglect and ultimate destruction of [Africville] by white Canadian governments while also dramatizing the resilience that enabled its residents to survive.” — Lesley Williams, Booklist

“A promising debut.” — Kirkus Reviews


Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781443458474
  • ISBN 10: 1443458473
  • Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers
  • On Sale: 12/10/2019
  • Pages: 384
  • List Price:24.99 CAD
  • BISAC1 : FICTION / African American / Historical
  • BISAC2 : FICTION / General
  • BISAC3 : FICTION / Historical

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