“Stunning…The author is supremely gifted at bringing both her characters and their close-knit rural town to life. Readers will eagerly await more from this writer.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Mon, Mar 27; 7 – 8 pm
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Resonant with the emotional urgency of Alice Walker’s classic Meridian and the poignant charm of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, this gripping debut novel of female power and vulnerability, race, and class explores the unlikely friendship between a precocious black girl and a mysterious white woman in a small Mississippi town in the early 1980s.
More from Publisher’s Weekly:
Nkrumah’s stunning debut revolves around an unlikely friendship between an 11-year-old Black girl and a middle-aged white woman in 1982 Ricksville, Miss., and the segregated town’s fraught history. Intelligent, questioning Ella stands out in her light-skinned Black family because she is the result of her mother’s fling with a much darker-skinned man. Her ne’er-do-well stepfather Leroy is seldom home, but when he is, he takes out his rage and humiliation by sexually abusing Ella, while her mother treats her with contempt and frequent whippings. Meanwhile, a white Princeton University professor named Katherine St. James, who was raised in Mississippi, stirs things up when she moves into the Black half of town for a research project. Though it’s been almost 20 years since the killings of three voting-rights activists nearby, the case remains unsolved and racial tensions still run high. Against this backdrop, Katherine becomes a tutor and mother figure to the love-starved Ella, but as shocking revelations emerge about Katherine’s past in 1960s Mississippi, Nkrumah leads readers to reflect on the limits of the professor’s good intentions. The author is supremely gifted at bringing both her characters and their close-knit rural town to life. Readers will eagerly await more from this writer.
Nyani Nkrumah was born in Boston and grew up in Ghana, West Africa, and later Zimbabwe. Nyani graduated from Amherst College, has a Masters from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and earned a Ph.D from Cornell University. A Fulbright Fellow, she lives in the Washington, DC area with her family and works in international development.