Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize • AWashington PostNoteworthy Book for September • AChristian Science MonitorGood Summer Reading Pick • AThe RootBooks By Black Authors We Can’t Wait to Read • AThe MillionsMost Anticipated Book
Coleman Hillis the exhilarating story of two American families whose fates become intertwined in the wake of the Great Migration. Braiding fact and fiction, it is a remarkable, character-rich tour de force exploring the ties that bind three generations.
In 1916, during the early days of the Great Migration, Celia Coleman and Lucy Grimes flee the racism and poverty of their homes in the post–Civil War South for the “Promised Land” of Vauxhall, New Jersey. But the North possesses its own challenges and bigotries that will shape the fates of the women and their families over the next seventy years. Told through the voices of nine family members—their perspectives at once harmonious and contradictory—Coleman Hillis a penetrating multigenerational debut.
Within ten years of arriving in Vauxhall, both Celia and Lucy’s husbands are dead, and they turn to one another for support in raising their children far from home. Lucy’s gentleness sets Celia at ease, and Celia lends Lucy her fire when her friend wants to cower. Encouraged by their mothers’ friendship, their children’s lives become enmeshed as well. As the children grow into adolescence, two are caught in an impulsive act of impropriety, and Celia and Lucy find themselves at irreconcilable odds over who’s to blame. The ensuing fallout has dire consequences that reverberate through the next two generations of their families.
A stunning biomythography—a word coined by the late great writer Audre Lorde—Coleman Hilldraws from the author’s own family legend, historical record, and fervent imagination to create an unforgettable new history. The result is a kaleidoscopic novel whose intergenerational arc emerges through a series of miniatures that contain worlds.