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A universal story of freedom, love, and motherhood, this sweeping, intergenerational saga features a group of outcast women during one of the most compelling eras in American history.
For a runaway slave in the 1840s south, life on the run can be just as dangerous as life under a sadistic Massa. That's what fifteen–year–old Naomi learns after she escapes the brutal confines of life on an Alabama plantation and takes refuge in a Georgia brothel run by a gun–toting Jewish madam named Cynthia. Amidst a revolving door of gamblers and prostitutes, Naomi falls into a love affair with a smooth–talking white man named Jeremy.
The product of their union is Josey, whose white skin and blond hair mark her as different from the others on the plantation. Having been taken in as an infant by a free slave named Charles, Josey has never known her mother, who was murdered at her birth. Josey soon becomes caught in the tide of history when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaches her and a day of supposed freedom turns into one of unfathomable violence that will define Josey—and her lost mother—for years to come.
About the Author
Natashia Deón is the recipient of a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship and has been awarded fellowships and residencies at Yale, Bread Loaf, Dickinson House in Belgium and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Named one of 2013's Most Fascinating People by L.A. Weekly, she has an MFA from UC Riverside and is the creator of the popular LA–based reading series Dirty Laundry Lit. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, The Rattling Wall, B O D Y, The Feminist Wire, and You: An Anthology of Second Person Essays, among others. She has taught creative writing for Gettysburg College, PEN Center USA, and 826LA. A practicing lawyer, she currently teaches law at Trinity Law School. Learn more at natashiadeon.com.
Praise for Grace
Named a New York Times Best Book of the Year, 2016
"With her debut novel, Grace, Natashia Deón has announced herself beautifully and distinctively. Her emotional range spans several octaves. She writes with her nerves, generating terrific suspense. And her style is so visual it plays tricks on the imagination — did I just watch that scene? Or did I read it? Ms. Deón is not merely another new author to watch. She has delivered something whole, and to be reckoned with, right now It's Ms. Deón's real and rare ability to make reading a felt, almost physical experience — of terror, rage, identification, sorrow. Ms. Deón is a graphic and unsparing storyteller In Grace, Ms. Deón explores, with psychological acuity and absolutely no mercy, what the institution did to slave women — specifically, how it deprived them of the most basic chance to love, delight in and protect their own children.”—Jennifer Senior, New York Times
“What do these ghosts want—and why is literary fiction suddenly so full of them? (See: Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders; White Tears, by Hari Kunzru; Grace, by Natashia Deón; The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.) It’s the past that won’t stay past, to paraphrase Faulkner. The ghosts—most of them, at any rate—want to rest, but they need restitution first. They need to know what happened to them, and why. It’s the unfinished business of a nation, playing out today in the calls for the removal of statues of Confederate soldiers and in the resurgence of the Klan.” —The New York Times
“Gripping and deeply affecting, Grace is an examination of injustice, violence, love, legacies, and survival.”—Buzzfeed
“[An] immersive tale You'll believe every word.”—People
“[A] haunting portrait of slavery, love and violence.”—Newsday
“We are looking forward to Grace because it's a multigenerational story about strong women in one of the darkest eras of American history.”—Redbook
“Put this one on your summer saga reading list.”—KQED Arts
“This book is well worth any emotional turmoil it puts you through––especially at this particular moment in our country's history.”—PureWow, Book Club Pick
“Grace is a sweeping, intergenerational saga featuring a group of outcast women during one of the most compelling eras in American history. It is a universal story of freedom, love, and motherhood, told in a dazzling and original voice set against a rich and transporting historical backdrop.” —Bookriot
“In vivid, haunting prose, Déon looks at one such line of women—mother, daughter, granddaughter—to tell the stories that must be told. A profound work of heart and grace.”—The Root
“Deon's novel is timely; she captures the eerily familiar violence of the slavery era, and the ways in which the promises of the Emancipation Proclamation turn hollow.”—Lithub
“Deon creates a world of perpetual sexual danger that feels authentic in a stomach–turning way; though not a historical text, her writing has an authority and truth that gets to the heart of the ugliness. It feels viscerally real. Grace features some of the most harrowing and vivid depictions of slavery that one is likely to encounter in any media literature, film, television or anything in between The ever–present fear of assault feels poignant, especially in a social climate more poised to address this kind of female oppression than arguably ever before in history. Grace's matter–of–factness about this threat of harm and the idea of control through sex feels a relevant now as it ever was. It seems that Deon, by shaping so much of her character's experiences by sexual threat, is making a statement about how women are forced to carry themselves in the modern world Grace is a chilling, uniquely visual reminder of how wrong we've been, how wrong we continue to be, of the strength of those who fight against constant oppression.”—Spectrum Culture
“In a summer filled with highly anticipated debuts, Natashia Deón's Civil War era novel, Grace, is among the most visceral and wrenching. A multi–generational story of black mothers and daughters surviving unspeakable violence and degradation during the darkest period of our nation's history history.”—Coast Magazine
“ Initially what sets Grace apart is aesthetic: Naomi tells her own story, and witnesses Josey's, as a ghost. What stuck with me about this novel, though, is its questioning of what redemption and justice would mean in this context. Naomi finds resolution, but this remains an unsettled and unsettling, literally haunted, debut.”—The Globe and Mail
“Stowe, Morrison and others have proven that the slave novel is the great American novel, and it's an exorcism of sorts. Add Natashia Deón's revelatory Grace to this list, as once again it locates exquisite poetry in the realm of American racial sin. Deón insists upon a racial reckoning, right here and now. She hears the jazz of American anguish, the agony of diminished chords and syncopated beats; she riffs on the pain of antebellum America with haunting lyricism and pulse–quickening suspense. Hers is a stunning new voice in fiction, unstinting yet sentimental, and her story bleeds with immediacy and longing. Like James Baldwin, who insisted that artists must confess in order “to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up,” Deón has come to bear witness . . . Reading Grace is a pungent reminder of our history, an immersion into betrayal and immorality, love and redemption. Like all great novels — and Grace is very much a great novel — the story tantalizes us with all things possible, despite grim assessments and tragic tropes, because even the worst of history can still be told through the best of language. With language there is poetry, and where there is poetry, there is humanity.” —Clyde Fitch Report
“This is a violent but important story about mothers and daughters, and a dark chapter in American history.”—Bookish, summer recommended read
“A novel of subtle daggers Grace is a spellbinding debut about race, the abiding bond between mother and child, and the tenebrous question of how the dead remain.”—Ploughshares (online), summer recommended read
“Naomi's emotional narration of the captivating novel reminds us of the power of motherhood and the idea of freedom.”—Elite Daily
“If the expression “natural–born storyteller” hasn't yet gone to the glue factory, then [this novel] take[s] the nag out for a fresh canter . Still, once you settle into [this] novel, a sign takes shape overhead: Quiet Please. People Reading [R]ight from these first few pages, Deón demonstrates a gift for terror by telegraph overall the suspense doubles, marvelously.”—Brooklyn Rail
“Grace is a moving story about the bonds of mother and daughter in the most difficult of circumstances.”—ReadHerLikeAnOpenBook
“Deón's powerful debut is a moving, mystical family saga . . . The book provides penetrating insight into how confusing, violent, and treacherous life remained in the South after the Emancipation Proclamation, and how little life improved for freed slaves, even after the war. The omnipresences of Naomi's ghost renders the story wide–angled, vast, and magical. Deón is a writer of great talent, using lyrical language and convincing, unobtrusive dialect to build portraits of each tragic individual as the sprawling story moves to its redemptive end.”—Publishers Weekly, Boxed and Starred Review
“There are moments of love in this harsh, affecting first novel, but the story mostly conveys the taking of personal freedom and human dignity. The presence of the apparition is fanciful, but it works well in bringing resolution to an imbalanced set of happenings.”—Library Journal
“In her gripping debut novel, Deon, awarded a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship, among other honors, dramatizes alliances formed by women in a violent place and time with adroit characterizations, a powerful narrative voice, and the propulsive plotting of a suspense novel Deon stays in control of her complex material, from its clever parallel structure to the women's psychological reactions to relentless tension. Readers will ache for these strong characters and yearn for them to find freedom and peace.” —Booklist, Starred Review
“[T]his is a brave story, necessary and poignant; it is a story that demands to be heard. This is the violent, terrifying world of the antebellum South, where African–American women were prey and their babies sold like livestock. This is the story of mothers and daughters—of violence, absence, love, and legacies. Deón's vivid imagery, deft characterization, and spellbinding language carry the reader through this suspenseful tale. A haunting, visceral novel that heralds the birth of a powerful new voice in American fiction.” —Kirkus, Starred Review
“People will compare this book to Twelve Years a Slave, Cold Mountain, and Beloved, and those are fair comparisons for the kind of time and place here, and the evocation of the south 150 years ago. But reading it, I thought of murder ballads, those songs of melancholy and injustice. Natashia Deon's genius lies, in part, in writing a book that sustains a murder ballad's intensity for hundreds of pages and gets into your bones like a song.” —Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me and The Faraway Nearby
“Natashia Deón's gorgeous debut is not only a piercing and unwavering exploration of slavery and its legacy, but also a fierce insistence that we honor and acknowledge the ghosts that haunt our America today. Like all important, classic books, Grace makes a story we think we know, the story of our country and its people, dazzling and new. This is not a book anyone is going to be able to put down—or forget.” —Dana Johnson, author of Elsewhere, California, nominee for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award
“The ghost narrator in Grace articulates how she feels when she falls in love: Filled. It is precisely how this flawlessly constructed novel will leave you. With muscular prose whose poetry is unforced, Deon lights a fire under the feet of her characters, women and men consumed by their fidelity to each other and untamed by their circumstances, who charge through history at the speed of thought. Deon makes the case anew that the facts of the past can only be understood by training an unflinching gaze upon the human beings who survived its horrors and proves on every page that only a consummate writer is equal to the task.” —Ru Freeman, author of A Disobedient Girl and On Sal Mal Lane
“Natashia Deon's superlative, gorgeously written debut grips you by the throat, exploring a teeming, post–Civil War world where the emancipation of slaves can be anything but freedom, violence is as casual as a cough, and love between a mother and a daughter can transcend even death. Scorchingly brilliant, this is one novel that already feels like a classic.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You
“Grace is a swirling wild ride into the sheer terror of slavery and the aftermath, a deep travel into the inexhaustible spirit of survival of her characters, and an eye into fields and forests which remain unforgettable. The women and men in this novel transcend all notions of what we've read before, and their bravery is tempered with a melancholy so deep it remains long after the last page.” —Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here