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Cover image for The Book of Harlan
Title:
The Book of Harlan
Author:
McFadden, Bernice L.
Subject:
Fiction
Literature
Historical Fiction
Description:
One of the Washington Post's Best Books of 2016 So Far"Simply miraculous...As her saga becomes ever more spellbinding, so does the reader's astonishment at the magic she creates. This is a story about the triumph of the human spirit over bigotry, intolerance and cruelty, and at the center of The Book of Harlan is the restorative force that is music."—Washington Post"McFadden packs a powerful punch with tight prose and short chapters that bear witness to key events in early twentieth-century history: both World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Migration. Partly set in the Jim Crow South, the novel succeeds in showing the prevalence of racism all across the country—whether implemented through institutionalized mechanisms or otherwise. Playing with themes of divine justice and the suffering of the righteous, McFadden presents a remarkably crisp portrait of one average man's extraordinary bravery in the face of pure evil."—Booklist, Starred review"Through this character portrait of Harlan, McFadden has constructed a vivid, compelling narrative that makes historical fiction an accessible, literary window into the African-American past and some of the contemporary dilemmas of the present."—Publishers Weekly"During WWII, two African-American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp, in the latest from the author of Sugar and Loving Donovan."—Publishers Weekly, Spring 2016 Announcements“The Book of Harlan is an incredible read. Bernice McFadden . . . has created an amazing novel that speaks to lesser known aspects of the African-American experience and illuminates the human heart and spirit. Her spare prose is rich in details that convey deep emotions and draw the reader in. This fictional narrative of Harlan Elliot's life is firmly grounded amidst real people and places—prime historical fiction, and the best book I have read this year."—Historical Novels Review, Editors' ChoiceIncluded in Barbara Hoffert's ALA Buzz Books Roundup:"Sought-after books included Bernice McFadden's The Book of Harlan, about two African American musicians imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp, so eye-opening that people came up hours before and days after the one-time giveaway begging for copies."—Library Journal"From Macon, Georgia, to Harlem, and from the City of Lights to Weimar, Germany, Bernice L. McFadden's latest novel follows Harlan and his friend Lizard, two black musicians who are captured by the Nazis during WWII and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. The Book of Harlan blends family history and world history, fact and fiction, to revisit a haunting chapter from the past."—Hello Beautiful, #BlackWomenRead: 17 Books by Black Women You Need In Your Life This SpringThe Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan's parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he eventually becomes a professional musician. When Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are invited to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre—affectionately referred to as "The Harlem of Paris" by black American musicians—Harlan jumps at the opportunity, convincing Lizard to join him.But after the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald—the notorious concentration camp in...
Publisher:
Akashic Books
Date:
2016/04/11
Digital Format:
Adobe EPUB

HTML

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

WINNER of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Fiction)

A Washington Post Notable Book of 2016

"Simply miraculous...As her saga becomes ever more spellbinding, so does the reader''s astonishment at the magic she creates. This is a story about the triumph of the human spirit over bigotry, intolerance and cruelty, and at the center of The Book of Harlan is the restorative force that is music."
-- Washington Post

"Another one of Bernice L. McFadden's masterpieces...McFadden took me on a melodious literary journey through time and place--complex, real, beautifully raw, and necessary...McFadden's prose lingers, giving me courage to stay committed to telling authentic stories that, while revealing of unspeakable truths, serve to unite us all."
-- The Millions

"I''ve finally discovered a writer I should''ve been reading for years!...McFadden has a gift for placing her characters into the vivid history swirling around them, but keeping their emotional experience front and center in the story. There''s a Zora Neale Hurston sensibility to the way she does that."
-- MPR News , Kerri Miller''s Must-Read

"McFadden''s writing breaks the heart--and then heals it again. The perspective of a black man in a concentration camp is unique and harrowing and this is a riveting, worthwhile read."
-- Toronto Star

" The Book of Harlan is an incredible read. Bernice McFadden...has created an amazing novel that speaks to lesser known aspects of the African-American experience and illuminates the human heart and spirit. Her spare prose is rich in details that convey deep emotions and draw the reader in. This fictional narrative of Harlan Elliot's life is firmly grounded amidst real people and places--prime historical fiction, and the best book I have read this year."
-- Historical Novels Review , Editors' Choice

"McFadden packs a powerful punch with tight prose and short chapters that bear witness to key events in early twentieth-century history: both World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Migration. Partly set in the Jim Crow South, the novel succeeds in showing the prevalence of racism all across the country--whether implemented through institutionalized mechanisms or otherwise. Playing with themes of divine justice and the suffering of the righteous, McFadden presents a remarkably crisp portrait of one average man''s extraordinary bravery in the face of pure evil."
-- Booklist , Starred review

"Through this character portrait of Harlan, McFadden has constructed a vivid, compelling narrative that makes historical fiction an accessible, literary window into the African-American past and some of the contemporary dilemmas of the present."
-- Publishers Weekly

"McFadden's impressive achievement offers us a window into the often very difficult lives of African Americans from the Jim Crow era up to the present--and, unexpectedly, in wartime Germany. Highly recommended for showing us that however badly black citizens have historically been treated, black lives matter."
-- Library Journal

The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan''s parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he eventually becomes a professional musician. When Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are invited to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre--affectionately referred to as "The Harlem of Paris" by black American musicians--Harlan jumps at the opportunity, convincing Lizard to join him.

But after the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald--the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany--irreparably changing the course of Harlan''s life. Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden''s mesmeric prose, The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden''s familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.


Author Notes

Bernice L. McFadden is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar , Loving Donovan , Nowhere Is a Place , The Warmest December , Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors' Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), and Glorious , which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a three-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the BCALA. McFadden lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

McFadden (Gathering of Waters) centers this novel on Harlan Elliott, a musician who faces extreme hardship. The book begins in 1917 in Macon, Georgia, where Emma grows up with her friend Lucille, and eventually meets her future husband, Sam. Emma and Sam conceive Harlan and shuttle to different cities so Emma can attempt to follow her dreams of being a musician; Harlan is raised by his grandparents until his grandfather, a respected minister in Macon, dies. He is then taken by his parents to be raised in Harlem and mentored by Lucille, a successful blues singer who somewhat recalls Alberta Hunter. Harlan finds women, music between a guitar's strings, and marijuana during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1930s. As he begins to gain attention as a musician with his friend Lizard, they are invited to perform in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre as tensions are rising in Europe. Unfortunately, bad timing and naïveté lead to Harlan and Lizard being thrown into Buchenwald, one of Germany's concentration camps. After Harlan faces the horrors of Buchenwald, his life becomes a series of struggles, not just in Germany but back in America as well. Through this character portrait of Harlan, McFadden has constructed a vivid, compelling narrative that makes historical fiction an accessible, literary window into the African-American past and some of the contemporary dilemmas of the present. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* When it comes to Harlan Elliott's life, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Until fate throws him squarely in the path of evil, Harlan leads a pretty routine existence as a young black man coming of age in 1920s Jazz Age Harlem. But when Harlan and his close friend, Lizard, aka Leo Benjamin Rubenstein, are invited to perform in Paris, they get sucked into the maelstrom of horrific world events, witnessing the Third Reich's extreme brutality, to devastating consequence. McFadden (Nowhere Is a Place, 2013) packs a powerful punch with tight prose and short chapters that bear witness to key events in early twentieth-century history: both World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Migration. Partly set in the Jim Crow South, the novel succeeds in showing the prevalence of racism all across the country whether implemented through institutionalized mechanisms or otherwise. Playing with themes of divine justice and the suffering of the righteous, McFadden presents a remarkably crisp portrait of one average man's extraordinary bravery in the face of pure evil.--Apte, Poornima Copyright 2016 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Born in 1917 to African American parents in Macon, GA, Harlan is in many respects an unexceptional individual who nonetheless lives through some of the most momentous periods of American history. We follow him as a sweet young boy left to live with his grandmother while his parents search for a better life elsewhere. Eventually, he makes his way to New York, settling in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance and hobnobbing with some of its notables. Having taken up the guitar, Harlan migrates to Paris to perform in Montmartre but is trapped there when the Germans occupy the city. One evening, with his Jewish friend and fellow musician Lizard (Leo), who is especially interesting because he forsook his Jewish roots to identify with black musicians and culture, a Nazi soldier apprehends them, and they are shipped off to the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp. The author, whom the publisher claims was inspired by Firpo Carr's Germany's Black Holocaust 1890-1945, amply describes the horrors of the camp and its lasting effect on Harlan. Verdict McFadden's (Gathering of Waters) impressive achievement offers us a window into the often very difficult lives of African Americans from the Jim Crow era up to the present-and, unexpectedly, in wartime Germany. Highly recommended for showing us that however badly black citizens have historically been treated, black lives matter.-Edward Cone, New York © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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