Africaville; Jeffrey Colvin

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Structured as a triptych, Africaville 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 in the 1980s.

A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like her ancestors, Kath Ella’s life is shaped by hardship—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 further from Africaville, 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, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel—as atmospheric and steeped in history as The Known World, Barracoon, The Underground Railroad, and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie—is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.

December 10, 2019


About the Author

Jeffrey was born and raised in Alabama, but now lives in New York City where he has been teaching and doing grant writing for small community-based arts organizations.
His debut novel, Africaville, was published in December 2019 by Amistad/HarperCollins USA. The novel is also being published in Canada, France, and Australia.
An excerpt of Africaville appeared in Narrative magazine, and his other fiction, reviews and essays have appeared in Hot Metal Bridge, Painted Bride Quarterly, Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Millions, The Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere.
Before returning to school to pursue an MFA, he served in the United States Marine Corps, and worked as an advertising analyst, congressional aide, and nonprofit manager.
He recently received a Paul Cuffee Scholarship to the Cuttyhunk Writers Residency, and a Nellie Mae Roe Distinguished Fellowship from Hambidge Center. He has received past grants and fellowships from Vermont Studio Center, Colgate University, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, The Norman Mailer Center, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
He is an assistant editor at Narrative magazine and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. He graduated from the US Naval Academy, Harvard University, and Columbia University where he received an MFA in fiction.

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