The Revisioners: A Novel

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9781640092587: The Revisioners: A Novel
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"[A] stunning new novel . . . Sexton’s writing is clear and uncluttered, the dialogue authentic, with all the cadences of real speech...

This is a novel about the women, the mothers." ―New York Times Book Review

"A powerful tale of racial tensions across generations." ―People

In 1924, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother, Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays Ava to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.

The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships―powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between mothers and their children, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.

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About the Author:

MARGARET WILKERSON SEXTON, born and raised in New Orleans, studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, was long-listed for the National Book Award and the Northern California Book Award, won the Crook’s Corner Book Prize, and was the recipient of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. Find out more at margaretwilkersonsexton.com.

Review:

Praise for The Revisioners

Long-listed for the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize
A Time Must-Read Book of the Year
One of O, The Oprah Magazine's Buzziest Books Coming Out This Year
A Well-Read Black Girl Book Club Pick
An Amazon Best Literature & Fiction Book of November 2019
E! News, One of the Best New Books of the Month
The Washington Post, 1 of 10 Books to Read This Month
Electric Literature, 1 of 48 Books by Women and Nonbinary Authors of Color to Read in 2019
Literary Hub, 1 of 10 New Books You Should Read This Week
The Millions, Most Anticipated

Parade, One of the Most Anticipated Books of Fall
BuzzFeed, A Buzzy Book Coming Out This Fall
Publishers Weekly, One of the Big Indie Books of the Season
Good Housekeeping, 1 of the 50 Best Books of the Year to Add to Your Reading List
Book Marks, One of the Best Reviewed Books of the Week
Parade, 1 of 8 Books to Fall Into
All Arts, 1 of 10 New Books to Read This Month
Paperback Paris, 1 of 12 New Books You'll Want to Bring Outside This Season

"This stunning novel features two African-American women connected by blood but divided by time: a biracial single mom in 2017 and a sharecropper turned farm-owning widow in 1924. The book grants the harsh facts of history the weight of myth; but the plot itself is not quite the point; this is a novel about the women." ―The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice

"This stunning novel is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of two African-American women connected by blood but divided by time: a biracial single mom in 2017 and a former sharecropper turned farm-owning widow in 1924. Both tell their progeny stories that ground the novel in the harsh facts of history even as they take on the weight of myth. The plot itself is not quite the point; this is a novel about the women, the mothers." ―The New York Times Book Review, 1 of the 100 Notable Books of the Year

"[A] stunning new novel . . . Sexton’s writing is clear and uncluttered, the dialogue authentic, with all the cadences of real speech. There is no false teenager slang, no tortured Southern accents or crude approximations of the words of the enslaved. Song lyrics, prayers, chants and Scripture are used liberally to situate the characters in time, but also to bind them to one another through a shared culture. But her prose also contains intimate, particularized glimpses of the main characters’ lives . . . Today’s readers will find the novel’s most visceral moments of cruelty all too familiar: white Americans dismantling any pretense of civility, taking out their own great pain on a black body. But the plot itself is not quite the point of The Revisioners. This is a novel about the women, the mothers. The mothers who slough off the rough edges of the terrible tales, who leave the essence of the story without the pathology. These mothers are well versed in the world’s grim reckoning, and they decide when and how much of the story to portion out . . . The novel proves that even if she is not with you, your mother (and her mother too) is not only part of you, but is you. You hear her voice echo through your own. You feel her expression creep onto your own face. She has something to pass onto you. The Revisioners also reminds us that though you may share blood, there are also connections deeper and more powerful than blood, connections that turn a collection of individuals into a community, and will forever be more significant than any bond that’s merely skin deep." ―Stephanie Powell Watts, The New York Times Book Review

"[A] sweeping novel . . . Sexton’s characters gain strength by finding one another across the generations." ―The New Yorker

"A powerful tale of racial tensions across generations." ―People

"Wilkerson crafts a necessary narrative on motherhood, race and freedom." ―Time, 1 of the 100 Must-Read Books of the Year

"Sexton (A Kind of Freedom) returns with this excellent story of a New Orleans family’s ascent from slavery to freedom, paying poetic tribute to their fearlessness and a 'mind magic' that fixes the present, sees into the future, and calls out from the past. In alternating chapters, two women tell their haunting, frightening, and ultimately uplifting stories . . . A chilling plot twist reveals the insidious racial divide that stretches through the generations, but it’s the larger message that’s so timely . . . This novel is both powerful and full of hope." ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This second novel from Sexton confirms the storytelling gifts she displayed in her lushly readable debut, A Kind of Freedom . . . At the intriguing crossroads of the seen and the unseen lies a weave among five generations of women." ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The Revisioners intricately probes and reveals the depths of women’s relationships, from the powerful to the marginalized, especially the bonds across the color line that make and break those relationships, and their generational legacies." ―Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic

"Sexton’s debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, longlisted for the National Book Award, centered on the hopes, dreams and fears of a black family in New Orleans. Her new novel, also set in the South, focuses on two black mothers, their uneasy friendships with white women and the dangers that imperil their families." ―The New York Times, 1 of 13 Books to Watch for This Month

"In the follow-up to her 2017 debut A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton again showcases the impact of racism across generations. The Revisioners opens in 2017 New Orleans with Ava, a biracial single parent who has just moved herself and her son into her white grandmother’s home. Then the story flashes back to nearly a century earlier, when Ava’s great-great-grandmother Josephine, a former slave, has just met her new white neighbors in 1924. As the two characters’ storylines converge, Sexton crafts a haunting portrait of survival, freedom and hope." ―Annabel Gutterman, Time, 1 of 11 New Books You Should Read This Month

"With extraordinary artistry, empathy and hope, Sexton invokes the voices of three generations of women linked by family, experiencing slavery in 1855; the Jim Crow South in 1924; and newly gentrifying post-Katrina New Orleans in 2017." ―Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture, 1 of 10 Books to Read This Month

"Few capture the literary world’s attention with their debut like this author did; her first novel, A Kind of Freedom, was nominated for the National Book Award and earned several other top accolades. Her anticipated follow-up offers a bracing window into Southern life and tensions, alternating between two women’s stories―set nearly 100 years apart." ―David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly, 1 of the 40 Biggest Titles of the Season

"The fragility fashioned by the sacrifices of Black bodies is confronted in this smart and spooky novel." ―Keyaira Boone, Essence

"Centering Black mothers and sons, Sexton exquisitely weaves themes of motherhood, survival and freedom throughout a touching and dynamic narrative." ―Karla Strand, Ms.

"In her new book, The Revisioners, Wilkerson builds her already expansive narrative skills . . . Braiding the parallel stories and complex interpersonal dynamics of a family and their communities, The Revisioners is a story that’s both timely and timeless." ―Sarah Neilson, Electric Literature

"Sexton’s follow-up to her National Book Award–nominated debut, A Kind of Freedom, tackles generational legacies, the echoes of history, and strength of bonds between women." ––Emily Temple, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton is able to create this family dynamic in such a short space. But she also tackles a lot of difficult topics. And since she is an African American woman writer, she often tackles topics around race and families and those dynamics and the way that she’s able to bring that to the table. Like in A Kind of Freedom, she featured New Orleans. And then over the course of generations, she eventually got to a post-Katrina New Orleans. And she just wove together this beautiful story about family and characters. She is one I want to watch." ―Kendra Winchester, Literary Hub, Reading Women's Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"[A] powerful, deeply personal second novel . . . It's rare for dual narratives to be equally compelling, and Sexton achieves this while illustrating the impact of slavery long after its formal end. Nurturing, motherhood, and pregnancy rise up as important themes. Readers will engage fully in this compelling story of African American women who have power in a culture that attempts to dismantle it." ―Booklist

"The Revisioners is a sublime marriage of stunning sentences and a chilling, insidious story, like if Get Out were literary fiction." ―Elena Nicolau, Refinery29

"The book is so moving in that it is a testament to the kind of magic we leave behind for others―whether it’s good magic in the form of hope, or the insidious kind of magic that leaves the world stagnant, hateful, and dangerous. While a moving and powerful read, it's also one that might require a walk around the block to properly digest as soon as you've finished." ―Katherine Tamola, Shondaland, 1 of 9 Reads You Won't Be Able to Put Down

"This dazzling, haunting novel is an intergenerational epic, an often devastating, but beautiful accounting of family bonds, the love of mothers and sons, and the enduring strength of Black women and their legacies . . . Wilkerson Sexton deftly explores the ways in which the past isn't prologue, but is actually what exists between the lines of our presently lived stories." ―Kristin Iversen, NYLON, 1 of the 34 Books You'll Want to Read This Fall

"[A] much anticipated second novel . . . Sexton’s novel is deftly structured into three parallel narratives, each intimately describing a woman in crisis seeking to free herself from a form of captivity . . . In this uplifting, graceful novel, the recovery of one’s ancestral past is an act of empowerment―one that heals grief, clears one’s heart of hatred, and replenishes one’s hope in the future." ―Darren Huang, Chicago Review of Books

"It’s not often that novels with dueling narratives hold their weight all the way through. Usually one set of plot developments, cast of characters or style of writing carries favor over the other or others. But all three deftly interwoven storylines in Bay Area author Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s knockout of a sophomore novel are not just enthralling (enough to plow through in one sitting), they’re equally soaked through with profound wisdom, far-reaching relevance and undeniable grace . . . What eventually happens to Josephine’s family shouldn’t come as a surprise to readers, given the annals of America’s dark, shameful history. But Sexton never resorts to cliche or mawkish prose. Instead, she writes candidly and from the heart, linking Josephine’s bone-deep trauma and “gnarled . . . monstrous, unyielding” rage to Ava’s modern-day burdens. We feel her words’ impact not just on our collective consciousness, but on our souls. At its most obvious, The Revisioners examines white privilege and the effects of entrenched racism before the Civil War, after Reconstruction and―as King learns what it means to be the only dark-skinned boy at his new school―in the present day. But perhaps more important, it’s also a novel where marginalized yet undeniably resilient black women are allowed to truly shine . . . The sheer power of The Revisioners proves Sexton isn’t a one-shot writer. She has immense talent." ―Alexis Burling, San Francisco Chronicle

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s follow-up to her fabulous first novel A Kind of Freedom is a page-turning exploration of southern Black women’s stories . . . Witnessing the way these stories intersect and speak to one another is one of the novel’s great pleasures. Sexton’s characters stick in your mind, and she makes you care deeply about their struggles and their triumphs. It’s a powerful, sweeping novel of hardship, survival, and hope." ―Rebecca Hussey, Book Riot

"If you read Wilkerson Sexton’s debut novel A Kind of Freedom, you know she has an incredible gift for finding the circumstances and struggles that connect many generations of African Americans. The Revisioners gives voice to a too often silent history and features real, layered, dynamic characters that will stay with you far past the last page." ―Susie Dumond, Book Riot, 1 of 8 Captivating New Historical Books to Read This Season

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's new novel is a poignant exploration of Blackness in the American South." ―Cristina Arreola, Bustle, 1 of the 19 Best New Books of the Month

"An arresting new novel . . . Two years after her National Book Award–nominated debut, A Kind of Freedom, Sexton pens a transgenerational story about the relationships between marginalized and empowered women, black motherhood and survival in the American South . . . Oscillating between generations, Wilkerson Sexton examines white privilege before the Civil War, after Reconstruction and in present day. Notably, in both characters’ cases, how even well-meaning white women’s actions can have unintentionally disastrous effects on the black folks around them. She also celebrates the perseverance of both women―fueled largely by their desire to provide for their families at all costs. Part historical novel, part magical realism and part slow-burn thriller, The Revisioners would be right at home with the writing of Jesmyn Ward, Ta-Nehisi Coates (especially his recent foray into fiction, The Water Dancer) and Colson Whitehead. With her astute chronicles of contemporary black womanhood, Wilkerson Sexton has officially cemented her status as a master storyteller." ―Sarah Stiefvater, PureWow, 1 of 8 Books to Read This Month

"Take a look back through the annals of any American family―even your own―and you'll likely find a lineage full of experiences: the good, the bad, even the traumatic. But it's how we learn to endure through our histories that, in turn, creates a legacy worth carrying on. Such is the fertile ground Margaret Wilkerson Sexton so vividly explores in her writing . . . Her latest work, The Revisioners, elegantly evokes various perspectives of the American South to tell the stories of survivors and healers . . . This is a novel at once entrenched in race and insidious privilege, but also familial sacrifice and breaking free of old evils." ―Katie Tamola, Shondaland

"A sweeping, historical novel set in the American South that examines the relationship between Black women separated by decades, as well as mothers and their children....

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