Fiction Marie-Elena John Unburnable

ISBN 13: 9780060837587

Unburnable

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9780060837587: Unburnable

Haunted by scandal and secrets, Lillian Baptiste fled Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival—songs about a village on a mountaintop littered with secrets, masquerades that supposedly fly and wreak havoc, and a man who suddenly and mysteriously dropped dead.

After twenty years away, Lillian returns to her native island to face the demons of her past—and with the help of Teddy, a man who has loved her for many years, she may yet find a way to heal.

Set in both contemporary Washington, D.C., and post-World War II Dominica, Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities. Richly textured and lushly rendered, Unburnable showcases a welcome and assured new voice.

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About the Author:

Antigua native Marie-Elena John graduated as the City College of New York’s first black woman valedictorian and later earned a master’s degree from Columbia University. A former Africa development specialist, she lives with her husband and two children in Washington, D.C., and Antigua.

From Publishers Weekly:

John takes readers into Caribbean culture and contemporary black America to explore family and oppression in this affecting but flawed debut novel. Lillian, a 30-something native of Dominica, now an activist in Washington, D.C., suffered a breakdown at 14 after discovering the identity of her birth mother, Iris: the beautiful, insane village prostitute whose own mother, the famous healer Matilda, was convicted of multiple murder and hung. Sent to live with her aunt in New York, Lillian grows up shielded from her history, avoiding troubling questions about herself and keeping friends distant. Her only real friend is Teddy Morgan, a self-absorbed historian she's pined after since their college days. Twenty years after leaving Dominica, Lillian is determined to return, in hopes of learning what happened to her mother, grandmother and herself—and she's determined to bring Teddy with her. John switches between Lillian's present day and the mid-century lives of Matilda and Iris, who are warm, vibrant characters and a welcome contrast to Lillian's gloom-and-doom. Aloof from the outset, it's never clear why, after 20 years without contact, Lillian wants to investigate her past, and her calculated manipulation of Teddy makes her hard to feel for. However, strong writing and interesting supporting characters should keep readers occupied through the end. (Apr.)
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