WINNER of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Fiction)
2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee (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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
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.
From an exciting new voice in African-American contemporary fiction comes a novel Ebony praised for its "unforgettable images, unique characters, and moving story that keeps the pages turning until the end." The Chicago Defender calls Sugar "a literary explosion...McFadden reveals amazing talent." The novel opens when a young prostitute comes to Bigelow, Arkansas, to start over, far from her haunting past. Sugar moves next door to Pearl, who is still grieving for the daughter who was murdered fifteen years before. Over sweet-potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins, transforming both women's lives--and the life of an entire town.
Sugar brings a Southern African-American town vividly to life, with its flowering magnolia trees, lingering scents of jasmine and honeysuckle, and white picket fences that keep strangers out--but ignorance and superstition in. To read this novel is to take a journey through loss and suffering to a place of forgiveness, understanding, and grace. McFadden is the author of the novels Gathering of Waters, Glorious, and This Bitter Earth.
"Riveting. . . . I am as impressed by its structural strength as by the searing and expertly imagined scenes.”—Toni Morrison, on The Warmest December
Glorious is set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era. Blending the truth of American history with the fruits of Bernice L. McFadden’s rich imagination, this is the story of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty.
Glorious is ultimately an audacious exploration into the nature of self-hatred, love, possession, ego, betrayal, and, finally, redemption.
aBernice L. McFadden is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, including the classic Sugar and Nowhere Is a Place, which was a Washington Post best fiction title for 2006. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of two fiction honors from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). McFadden lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she is working on her next novel.
--New York Journal of Books
"An engrossing multigenerational saga . . . With her deep engagement in the material and her brisk but lyrical prose, McFadden creates a poignant epic of resiliency, bringing Sherry to a well-earned awareness of her place atop the shoulders of her ancestors, those who survived so that she might one day, too."
"Telling her story from two perspectives and on two levels--the mother-daughter relationship and Sherry's fictional account--McFadden brings added texture to this story of reconciliation."
“A poignant tale of self-discovery in the face of a complicated family history.”
--Brooklyn Daily Eagle
"Bernice L. McFadden’s Nowhere Is a Place is a hauntingly-disturbing and redemptive frame story of many generations of a Yamasee Native-American and African-American family from pre-slavery times until July 1995."
--Bowling Green Daily News
"With a good dose of poignancy about life and finding the wisdom of the world for ourselves, Nowhere is a Place is a fine addition to modern literary fiction collections."
--The Midwest Book Review
"Compelling, beautifully written, and profoundly human, McFadden has conjured a tale of a fractured family who journey across the country and back through history to unearth painful truths that unexpectedly reshape their relationships with each other."
--Lynn Nottage, playwright, author of Intimate Apparel
Nothing can mend a broken heart quite like family. Sherry has struggled all her life to understand who she is, where she comes from, and, most important, why her mother slapped her cheek one summer afternoon. The incident has haunted Sherry, and it causes her to dig into her family's past. Like many family histories, it is fractured and stubbornly reluctant to reveal its secrets; but Sherry is determined to know the full story. In just a few days' time, her extended family will gather for a reunion, and Sherry sets off across the country with her mother, Dumpling, to join them. What Sherry and Dumpling find on their trip is far more important than scenic sites here and there--it is the assorted pieces of their family's past. Pulled together, they reveal a history of amazing survival and abundant joy.
Bernice L. McFadden is the author of eight critically acclaimed novels including the classic Sugar, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors' Choice), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of two fiction honor awards from the BCALA. Her sophomore novel, The Warmest December, was praised by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison as "searing and expertly imagined." McFadden lives in Brooklyn, New York.
“100 Notable Books of 2012” —New York Times
“50 Best Books of 2012” —Washington Post
"McFadden works a kind of miracle -- not only do [her characters] retain their appealing humanity; their story eclipses the bonds of history to offer continuous surprises . . . Beautiful and evocative, Gathering of Waters brings three generations to life . . . The real power of the narrative lies in the richness and complexity of the characters. While they inhabit these pages they live, and they do so gloriously and messily and magically, so that we are at last sorry to see them go, and we sit with those small moments we had with them and worry over them, enchanted, until they become something like our own memories, dimmed by time, but alive with the ghosts of the past, and burning with spirits."
--New York Times Book Review
"Read it aloud. Hire a chorus to chant it to you and anyone else interested in hearing about civil rights and uncivil desires, about the dark heat of hate, about the force of forgiveness."
--Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered, NPR
"McFadden combines events of Biblical proportions--from flooding to resurrection--with history to create a cautionary, redemptive tale that spans the early twentieth century to the start of Hurricane Katrina. She compellingly invites readers to consider the distinctions between 'truth or fantasy' . . . In McFadden's boldly spun yarn, consequences extend across time and place. This is an arresting historical portrait of Southern life with reimagined outcomes, suggesting that hope in the enduring power of memory can offer healing where justice does not suffice."
"The rich text is shaped by the African American storytelling tradition and layered with significant American histories. Recalling the woven spirituality of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, this work will appeal to readers of mystic literature."
"McFadden makes powerful use of imagery in this fantastical novel of ever-flowing waters and troubled spirits."
"In this fierce reimagining, the actual town of Money, MS narrates the story about the ghost of Emmett Till and his from-the-other-side reunification with the girl he loved as a child in Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden."
Gathering of Waters is a deeply engrossing tale narrated by the town of Money, Mississippi--a site both significant and infamous in our collective story as a nation. Money is personified in this haunting story, which chronicles its troubled history following the arrival of the Hilson and Bryant families.
Tass Hilson and Emmett Till were young and in love when Emmett was brutally murdered in 1955. Anxious to escape the town, Tass marries Maximillian May and relocates to Detroit.
Forty years later, after the death of her husband, Tass returns to Money and fantasy takes flesh when Emmett Till's spirit is finally released from the dank, dark waters of the Tallahatchie River. The two lovers are reunited, bringing the story to an enchanting and profound conclusion.
Gathering of Waters mines the truth about Money, Mississippi, as well as the town's families, and threads their history over decades. The bare-bones realism--both disturbing and riveting--combined with a magical realm in which ghosts have the final say, is reminiscent of Toni Morrison's Beloved.
--Terry McMillan, from the Introduction
"Bernice L. McFadden was one of the best writers to emerge in the post-Waiting to Exhale explosion that introduced at least a dozen Black female novelists. Loving Donovan has generated near-cult status among readers. After more than a decade since it appeared, Donovan is being reissued. How fitting that Terry McMillan has written a new introduction. If you've read Donovan before, you will fall in love all over again. And if this is your first time, prepare yourself for an intense romance between an enigmatic antihero and a heroine who will feel like your homegirl."
"Loving Donovan is brilliant. By exploring the depth of her characters, the novel transforms what, on the surface, may appear to be the run-of-the-mill, paperback sentimental, tear-jerking coupling, into an understanding, unflinching, expertly told tale of human nature."
One of Library Journal's 25 Key Indie Fiction Titles for Fall 2014-Winter 2015!
"A two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist also twice honored by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, McFadden presents a love story starring Campbell and Donovan--both from shattered homes, both still hopeful, and both shaped more by history than they can imagine. Don't miss."
--Library Journal Prepub Alert
"Loving Donovan firmly establishes McFadden among the ranks of those few writers of whom you constantly beg for more."
--Black Issues Book Review
"McFadden is clearly adept in keeping the reader entertained, captivated, and on our toes to try to figure out what's going to happen next. The rich characters, life situations, and language all wrapped up in such a small book and saying so much is a feat."
--Brown Girl Reading
Praise for Bernice L. McFadden:
"McFadden works a kind of miracle--not only do her characters retain their appealing humanity; their story eclipses the bonds of history to offer continuous surprises."
--New York Times, on Gathering of Waters
"Searing and expertly imagined."
--Toni Morrison, on The Warmest December
With a new introduction by Terry McMillan.
The first section of McFadden's unconventional love story belongs to Campbell. Despite being born to a brokenhearted mother and a faithless father, Campbell still believes in the power of love...if she can ever find it. Living in the same neighborhood, but unknown to Campbell until a chance meeting brings them together, is Donovan, the "little man" of a shattered home--a family torn apart by anger and bitterness.
In the face of daunting obstacles, Donovan dreams of someday marrying, raising a family, and playing in the NBA. But deep inside, Campbell and Donovan live with the histories that have shaped their lives. What they discover--together and apart--forms the basis of this compelling, sensual, and surprising novel.
"Riveting. . . . So nicely avoids the sentimentality that swirls around the subject matter. I am as impressed by its structural strength as by the searing and expertly imagined scenes."
--Toni Morrison, author of Beloved
"The sharpness of the prose and power of the story make it hard to stop reading even the most brutal scenes . . . The story feels real perhaps because it’s familiar . . . Or maybe, as Frey points out, the story is too vivid to be read purely as fiction. But in this Precious-style novel, genre is the least of our concerns."
"This is a story that cuts across all race and social strata in its need to be told."
--The Dallas Morning News
The Warmest December is the incredibly moving story of one Brooklyn family and the alcoholism that determined years of their lives. Narrated by Kenzie Lowe, a young woman reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John, as she visits her dying father and finds that choices she once thought beyond her control are very much hers to make.
Bernice L. McFadden is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels.
"Perhaps one of the best books of the year, Praise Song for the Butterflies is a stunning, brief portrait that humanizes the plight of those in ritual servitude. It's a fantastic work from a gifted author."
"A fictional West African country is the setting for Bernice L. McFadden's latest work, Praise Song for the Butterflies. Here we meet Abeo Kata, a 9-year-old girl who is ripped from her privileged lifestyle when her father forces her to become a slave in a religious sect. Rescued after 15 years, Abeo struggles to overcome dark family secrets while learning to love again."
Included in BookRiot's "22 Upcoming Releases by Authors of Color Featured at BEA"
"Bernice L. McFadden's novel Praise Song for the Butterflies has received great reviews and will be published today. The book centers on Abeo Kata, the privileged daughter of a government employee and a stay-at-home mother in West Africa whose happy life changes dramatically after she's placed in a shrine as an offering. Fifteen years later, Abeo is finally rescued and must learn to move beyond her traumatic past."
--Good Morning America
"McFadden crafts a compassionate, unforgettable story of loss and redemption."
"Recent favorites [at Mahogany Books in Washington, DC] include...award-winning novelist Bernice L. McFadden's forthcoming Praise Song for the Butterflies, about a nine-year-old West African girl sacrificed into religious servitude."
"Praise Song for the Butterflies is written like a fable--one of devastation, but triumph, too. Bernice L. McFadden's novel sheds light on the long practice of trokosi, ritual servitude to priests."
"Bernice L. McFadden's tenth novel follows a West African woman's recovery after she escapes the temple where she was forced into 15 years of ritual servitude."
"Abeo Kata's comfortable life as a West African child is violently cut short when, at nine years old, she is sacrificed to a shrine as atonement for her father's sins. After 15 years, she is finally rescued--battered, bruised and faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of rejoining a world (and a family) that left her behind."
"Praise Song for the Butterflies is a heavy and stirring book about the violence inflicted on girls--and the revenge that some of them are able to enact."
Abeo Kata lives a comfortable, happy life in West Africa as the privileged nine-year-old daughter of a government employee and stay-at-home mother. But when the Katas' idyllic lifestyle takes a turn for the worse, Abeo's father, following his mother's advice, places the girl in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as atonement for the crimes of his ancestors. Unspeakable acts befall Abeo for the fifteen years she is held in the shrine. When she is finally rescued, broken and battered, she must struggle to overcome her past, endure the revelation of family secrets, and learn to trust and love again.
In the tradition of Chris Cleave's Little Bee, this novel is a contemporary story that offers an eye-opening account of the practice of ritual servitude in West Africa. Spanning decades and two continents, Praise Song for the Butterflies will break your heart and then heal it.
--New York Times, on Gathering of Waters
"Riveting...so nicely avoids the sentimentality that swirls around the subject matter. I am as impressed by its structural strength as by the searing and expertly imagined scenes."
--Toni Morrison, on The Warmest December
"McFadden's lively and loving rendering of New York hews closely to the jazz-inflected city of myth....McFadden has a wonderful ear for dialogue, and her entertaining prose equally accommodates humor and pathos."
--New York Times, on Glorious
"An engrossing multigenerational saga...With her deep engagement in the material and her brisk but lyrical prose, McFadden creates a poignant epic of resiliency, bringing Sherry to a well-earned awareness of her place atop the shoulders of her ancestors, those who survived so that she might one day, too."
--Publishers Weekly, on Nowhere Is a Place
The Bernice L. McFadden Collection features four novels from the three-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist: Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), Glorious (2010), Nowhere Is a Place (2006), and The Warmest December (2001).