Cover image for Africaville : a novel
Title:
Africaville : a novel
ISBN:
9781432875015
Edition:
Large Print ed.

Wheeler Publishing Large Print Hardcover.
Physical Description:
581 pages (large print) 23 cm.
Local Subject:
Summary:
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. --
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Summary

A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time, and fate.

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.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Inspired by Africville, a neighborhood in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Colvin's intriguing and memorable debut shines a light on a little-known black experience: the freed slaves from the Caribbean and U.S. who established a community in Canada in the 1800s. This family saga extends from 1918 to 1992 and focuses on descendants of the Sebolt and Platt families, who are joined when Omar Platt has an affair with Kath Ella Sebolt in 1936 right before his accidental death. She gives birth to a son and leaves Halifax for Montreal to further her education, meeting her future husband there, a white man who adopts baby Omar, renaming him Etienne. Etienne moves to Alabama in the 1960s, passes for white, marries a white woman, and ignores the black side of his family to such an extent that his own son, Warner, doesn't find out about his black heritage until after his father's death. Colvin expertly weaves in the subject of owning one's heritage as Warner comes to terms with his Canadian past and the tragedies that dogged the Sebolts and Platts. The book covers much territory--the black experience in a small enclave in Canada and Etienne's and Warner's grappling with their racial identity--and sometimes these varying plots feel like they belong in two different books, making for a novel that feels diffuse. Nevertheless, this is a penetrating, fresh look at the indomitable spirit of black pioneers and their descendants. (Dec.)


Kirkus Review

In his debut novel, Colvin tracks three generations of an African Canadian family hailing from the fictional settlement of Woods Bluff in Nova Scotia, a dizzyingly diverse community founded in the 18th century by itinerant Americans, bold Africans, and rebellious Caribbean blacks.We enter this world in 1918 alongside Kath Ella Sebolt, a bright young girl who soon earns a scholarship to attend college in Montreal. As she drifts away from Woods Bluff, she gets close to Omar Platt, an exiled African American from Mississippi. Kath eventually becomes pregnant with Omar's son, Little Omar. But with Omar out of the picture, and her life firmly set in Montreal, Kath marries a white man named Timothee, who adopts Little Omar as his own. Renamed Etienne, Little Omar struggles with his racial identity. He becomes an academic, has a son of his own, and moves to Alabama, where he and his son, Warner, must reckon with racial realities and their family history. Colvin's storytelling ranges back and forth in time, unearthing his fictional community's history, examining everything from the uses of baby dolls to cure fevers to the origins of the phrase "You're a lying crow." This results in an exploration of how time and migration can change a family and impact its experience of race, but it can also turn the narrative into a confused jumble of incidents. Important characters like Kiendra, Kath's prankster friend whose antics doom her, are too thinly drawn to have the impact Colvin intends. Meanwhile, time that could be used to round out these characters is spent on detours that don't pay off. Colvin's prose can also plod. A scene in which Kath throws a rock to avenge Kiendra's fate means to stun the reader but mostly frustrates. "The rock descends toward the window, moving and tumbling and cutting....A fraction of an inch before the window pane, the rock's leading edge shakes off the last bit of dust, the last length of spider filament, the last bit of rat's hair..."A promising debut that aims high but stumbles. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Colvin plumbs the little known history of African Canadians in this multigenerational family saga . Africaville, settled and populated in the late eighteenth century by the descendants of escaped slaves from Jamaica and the U.S., was a real town in Nova Scotia, bordering Halifax. Colvin follows the travails of the Sebolt and Platt families, including determined Kath Ella Sebolt, who refuses to let any missteps derail her dreams of becoming a teacher, and Omar Platt, the son of two imprisoned Black revolutionaries seeking his own place in a community that would rather forget him. Kath Ella and Omar's descendants wander far from home, losing touch with their race and their community, yet Africaville's rich history will always draw them back, forcing them to confront and celebrate their heritage. Colvin depicts the heartbreaking neglect and ultimate destruction of Africaville by white Canadian governments while also dramatizing the resilience that enabled its residents to survive.--Lesley Williams Copyright 2019 Booklist


Library Journal Review

The story of three contentious generations unfolds in a small town in Nova Scotia settled by the formerly enslaved, moving from the Great Depression to Sixties social protest to the economic floundering of the 1980s as Kath Ella, her life shaped by hardship and the continuing prejudice against those with dark skin, sees beloved son Omar/Etienne turn his back on their Canadian town, with grandson Warner drifting further away. But they, too, remained shaped by Africaville in a story that investigates issues of race, identity, and home. Lots of in-house excitement for this debut novel by a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harvard University, and Columbia University's MFA program; with a 25,000-copy first printing.