AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB SELECTION
‘The kind of book that comes around only once a decade…Simply magnificent’ Washington Post
‘Quite simply the best book that I have read in a very, very long time’ New York Times
‘As brilliant as it is necessary, as intimate as it is expansive’ ANGIE THOMAS, author of The Hate U Give
A breathtaking and ambitious debut novel that chronicles the journey of multiple generations of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era, by prize-winning poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.
The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called ‘Double Consciousness,’ a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well.
Ailey grows up in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother’s family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women – her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries – that urge her to succeed in their stead.
To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors – Indigenous, Black, and white – in the deep South. In doing so she must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story – and the song – of America itself.
An intimate yet sweeping novel with all the dazzling force of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is unforgettable debut that is set to be one of the most talked about books of the year.
‘Beautiful … In Jeffers’ deft hands, the story of race and love in America becomes the Great American Novel’ JACQUELINE WOODSON, author of Red at the Bone
About the author
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a fiction writer, poet, and essayist. She is the author of five poetry collections, including The Age of Phillis, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry, was longlisted for a National Book Award, and was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. She was a contributor to The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, and has been published in the Kenyon Review, the Iowa Review, and other literary magazines. Jeffers was elected into the American Antiquarian Society, whose members include fourteen US presidents, and is a critic at large for the Kenyon Review. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Oklahoma.
- ‘A staggering and ambitious saga … Themes of family, class, higher education, feminism, and colorism yield many rich layers. Readers will be floored’ Publishers Weekly, starred review
- ‘‘Whatever must be said to get you to heft this daunting debut novel by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, I’ll say, because The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is the kind of book that comes around only once a decade … the journey is engrossing, and the view from the summit will transform your understanding of America … With the depth of its intelligence and the breadth of its vision, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is simply magnificent’ Washington Post
- ‘If you read one book this year, choose this one … With the arrival of this epic novel of family, race, and ancestral legacy, one of America’s finest poets has announced herself as a storyteller of the highest magnitude. Absolutely brilliant’ Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench and Balm
- ‘A family saga that is just as brilliant as it is necessary, just as intimate as it is expansive. An outstanding portrait of an American family and in turn, an outstanding portrait of America’ Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give
- ‘The gorgeous prose one expects from a gifted, accomplished poet, masterful and stunning, as she explores both the bountiful resilience of Black folks and the insidious depravity wrought by white supremacy. These Love Songs make for a frank, feminist, and unforgettable read’ Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
- ‘Sweeping, masterly … Quite simply the best book that I have read in a very, very long time … Just as Toni Morrison did in Beloved, Jeffers uses fiction to fill in the gaping blanks of those who have been rendered nameless and therefore storyless … ‘Love Songs’ is so satisfying because it generously feeds a hunger that you might not have even realized you had’ New York Times