A richly woven story, structured as a triptych, Africville 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 20th century, from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s, to the economic upheavals of the 1980s.
A century earlier, Kath Ella's ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like the lives of her ancestors, Kath Ella's is shaped by hardship as 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 farther from Africville, 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, Africville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colourful details and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel — as atmospheric and steeped in history as Any Known Blood, The Known World, George & Rue, The Underground Railroad, Homegoing and The Book of Negroes — is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent. (From HarperCollins)
Jeffrey Colvin is a New York-based writer and critic. Africville is his first novel.