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The Revisioners

List Price: $25.00

November 5, 2019 | Hardcover | 5.8 x 8.3, 288 pages | ISBN 9781640092587
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A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year

“Sexton takes on [Toni Morrison’s artful invocation of the ghost] in her new novel The Revisioners. . . She writes with such a clear sense of place and time that each of these intermingled stories feels essential and dramatic in its own way.” –Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“A powerful tale of racial tensions across generations.” —People

In 1924, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother, Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays Ava to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.

The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships–powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between mothers and their children, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.

“[A] stunning new novel . . . Sexton’s writing is clear and uncluttered, the dialogue authentic, with all the cadences of real speech… This is a novel about the women, the mothers.” ―New York Times Book Review

About Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

MARGARET WILKERSON SEXTON, born and raised in New Orleans, studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, was long-listed for the National Book Award and the Northern California Book Award, won the Crook's Corner Book Prize, and was the recipient of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Praise

Praise for The Revisioners

Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work--Fiction
Winner of the 2020 George Garrett New Writing Award
Long-listed for the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize
NBC News, 1 of 40 Best African American Books, According to the NAACP
A Time Must-Read Book of the Year
TODAY, 1 of 5 Books to Read If You Enjoyed "Writers & Lovers" by Lily King
One of O, The Oprah Magazine's Buzziest Books Coming Out This Year
A Well-Read Black Girl Book Club Pick
An Amazon Best Literature & Fiction Book of November 2019
E! News, One of the Best New Books of the Month
The Washington Post, 1 of 10 Books to Read This Month
Kirkus Reviews, 1 of the 12 Best Reads for Your Book Club
Electric Literature, 1 of 48 Books by Women and Nonbinary Authors of Color to Read in 2019
Literary Hub, 1 of 10 New Books You Should Read This Week
The Millions, Most Anticipated

Parade, One of the Most Anticipated Books of Fall
BuzzFeed, A Buzzy Book Coming Out This Fall
Publishers Weekly, One of the Big Indie Books of the Season
Good Housekeeping, 1 of the 50 Best Books of the Year to Add to Your Reading List
Book Marks, One of the Best Reviewed Books of the Week
Parade, 1 of 8 Books to Fall Into
All Arts, 1 of 10 New Books to Read This Month
PureWow, 1 of the 25 Best Books We Read This Year
PureWow, One of the Best New (and New-ish) Books to Read This Black History Month
Paperback Paris, 1 of 12 New Books You'll Want to Bring Outside This Season
StyleBlueprint, 1 of 6 New Novels to Curl Up with This Season

"This stunning novel features two African-American women connected by blood but divided by time: a biracial single mom in 2017 and a sharecropper turned farm-owning widow in 1924. The book grants the harsh facts of history the weight of myth; but the plot itself is not quite the point; this is a novel about the women." --The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice

"This winding, lyrical novel tells the story of several generations and the different eras they live in through the lens of one family. The novel focuses on exploring the depths of women's relationships, the endurance of hope and trauma across centuries, and the bonds between mothers and their children." --Kerry Breen, TODAY

"Spanning more than 160 years, the story begins in present-day New Orleans and immediately questions the presumptions of our self-satisfied social progress . . . Sexton explores . . . unspoken tensions brilliantly . . . Her subtle portrayal of a black mother's competing desires is layered with both pathos and wit . . . We hear from her as an enslaved child in 1855 and as a successful businesswoman in 1924. That structure is complex, particularly for such a relatively compact novel, but Sexton writes with such a clear sense of place and time that each of these intermingled stories feels essential and dramatic in its own way . . . This intermingling of stories makes an evocative point about the path that black Americans have followed over the past century and a half. Each of these episodes is shattered by violence, yes, but also leavened by varying degrees of progress, despite the persistence of white people convinced of their superiority, innocence and benevolence. The result is a novel marked by acts of cruelty but not, ultimately, overwhelmed by them. The line stretching from Ava back to Josephine and beyond connects a collection of women attuned to danger, quick to adapt, remarkably hopeful about the future." --Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"This stunning novel is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of two African-American women connected by blood but divided by time: a biracial single mom in 2017 and a former sharecropper turned farm-owning widow in 1924. Both tell their progeny stories that ground the novel in the harsh facts of history even as they take on the weight of myth. The plot itself is not quite the point; this is a novel about the women, the mothers." --The New York Times Book Review, 1 of the 100 Notable Books of the Year

"[A] stunning new novel . . . Sexton's writing is clear and uncluttered, the dialogue authentic, with all the cadences of real speech. There is no false teenager slang, no tortured Southern accents or crude approximations of the words of the enslaved. Song lyrics, prayers, chants and Scripture are used liberally to situate the characters in time, but also to bind them to one another through a shared culture. But her prose also contains intimate, particularized glimpses of the main characters' lives . . . Today's readers will find the novel's most visceral moments of cruelty all too familiar: white Americans dismantling any pretense of civility, taking out their own great pain on a black body. But the plot itself is not quite the point of The Revisioners. This is a novel about the women, the mothers. The mothers who slough off the rough edges of the terrible tales, who leave the essence of the story without the pathology. These mothers are well versed in the world's grim reckoning, and they decide when and how much of the story to portion out . . . The novel proves that even if she is not with you, your mother (and her mother too) is not only part of you, but is you. You hear her voice echo through your own. You feel her expression creep onto your own face. She has something to pass onto you. The Revisioners also reminds us that though you may share blood, there are also connections deeper and more powerful than blood, connections that turn a collection of individuals into a community, and will forever be more significant than any bond that's merely skin deep." --Stephanie Powell Watts, The New York Times Book Review

"[A] sweeping novel . . . Sexton's characters gain strength by finding one another across the generations." --The New Yorker

"A powerful tale of racial tensions across generations." --People

"Wilkerson crafts a necessary narrative on motherhood, race and freedom." --Time, 1 of the 100 Must-Read Books of the Year

"In this incantatory novel by the author of A Kind of Freedom, a biracial New Orleans woman grapples with prejudice by excavating the story of a female ancestor who endured the roil between slavery and the Jazz Age." --O, The Oprah Magazine, 1 of 10 Tiles to Pick Up Now

"Sexton (A Kind of Freedom) returns with this excellent story of a New Orleans family's ascent from slavery to freedom, paying poetic tribute to their fearlessness and a 'mind magic' that fixes the present, sees into the future, and calls out from the past. In alternating chapters, two women tell their haunting, frightening, and ultimately uplifting stories . . . A chilling plot twist reveals the insidious racial divide that stretches through the generations, but it's the larger message that's so timely . . . This novel is both powerful and full of hope." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This second novel from Sexton confirms the storytelling gifts she displayed in her lushly readable debut, A Kind of Freedom . . . At the intriguing crossroads of the seen and the unseen lies a weave among five generations of women." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Sexton weaves well-crafted intergenerational narratives, each set in a different era and each giving voice to strong women of color . . . The dynamics of a brutal past encompassing violence and racial inequality is core here, but the narrative is significant for acknowledging that elements of that past are not completely past and for portraying two fearless women separated by time but both dealing with white women's racism. Recommended for all collections." --Library Journal (starred review)

"The Revisioners intricately probes and reveals the depths of women's relationships, from the powerful to the marginalized, especially the bonds across the color line that make and break those relationships, and their generational legacies." --Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic

"Sexton's debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, longlisted for the National Book Award, centered on the hopes, dreams and fears of a black family in New Orleans. Her new novel, also set in the South, focuses on two black mothers, their uneasy friendships with white women and the dangers that imperil their families." --The New York Times, 1 of 13 Books to Watch for This Month

"In the follow-up to her 2017 debut A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton again showcases the impact of racism across generations. The Revisioners opens in 2017 New Orleans with Ava, a biracial single parent who has just moved herself and her son into her white grandmother's home. Then the story flashes back to nearly a century earlier, when Ava's great-great-grandmother Josephine, a former slave, has just met her new white neighbors in 1924. As the two characters' storylines converge, Sexton crafts a haunting portrait of survival, freedom and hope." --Annabel Gutterman, Time, 1 of 11 New Books You Should Read This Month

"With extraordinary artistry, empathy and hope, Sexton invokes the voices of three generations of women linked by family, experiencing slavery in 1855; the Jim Crow South in 1924; and newly gentrifying post-Katrina New Orleans in 2017." --Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture, 1 of 10 Books to Read This Month

"Few capture the literary world's attention with their debut like this author did; her first novel, A Kind of Freedom, was nominated for the National Book Award and earned several other top accolades. Her anticipated follow-up offers a bracing window into Southern life and tensions, alternating between two women's stories--set nearly 100 years apart." --David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly, 1 of the 40 Biggest Titles of the Season

"The fragility fashioned by the sacrifices of Black bodies is confronted in this smart and spooky novel." --Keyaira Boone, Essence

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's novel The Revisioners takes one of my favorite approaches to historical fiction by blending a past narrative with a current one . . . It's an intriguing and affecting way to delve into issues of race and women." --Aurelia C. Scott, BookTrib

"Centering Black mothers and sons, Sexton exquisitely weaves themes of motherhood, survival and freedom throughout a touching and dynamic narrative." --Karla Strand, Ms.

"In her new book, The Revisioners, Wilkerson builds her already expansive narrative skills . . . Braiding the parallel stories and complex interpersonal dynamics of a family and their communities, The Revisioners is a story that's both timely and timeless." --Sarah Neilson, Electric Literature

"Sexton's follow-up to her National Book Award-nominated debut, A Kind of Freedom, tackles generational legacies, the echoes of history, and strength of bonds between women." --Emily Temple, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton is able to create this family dynamic in such a short space. But she also tackles a lot of difficult topics. And since she is an African American woman writer, she often tackles topics around race and families and those dynamics and the way that she's able to bring that to the table. Like in A Kind of Freedom, she featured New Orleans. And then over the course of generations, she eventually got to a post-Katrina New Orleans. And she just wove together this beautiful story about family and characters. She is one I want to watch." --Kendra Winchester, Literary Hub, Reading Women's Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"Sexton painfully brings to life the continued assault on the black American psyche as she ties together the dangers Josephine and her family experience daily in the Jim Crow era south and the undercurrents of racism that threaten both Ava and her young son . . . The plot of The Revisioners comes secondary to the strength and clarity of Sexton's prose and its exploration of motherhood and daughterhood, of inherited trauma and the invisible bonds that tie us to the past and give us the power to move forward into the future." --Jillian Karande, BuzzFeed

"[A] powerful, deeply personal second novel . . . It's rare for dual narratives to be equally compelling, and Sexton achieves this while illustrating the impact of slavery long after its formal end. Nurturing, motherhood, and pregnancy rise up as important themes. Readers will engage fully in this compelling story of African American women who have power in a culture that attempts to dismantle it." --Booklist

"The Revisioners is a sublime marriage of stunning sentences and a chilling, insidious story, like if Get Out were literary fiction." --Elena Nicolau, Refinery29

"The book is so moving in that it is a testament to the kind of magic we leave behind for others--whether it's good magic in the form of hope, or the insidious kind of magic that leaves the world stagnant, hateful, and dangerous. While a moving and powerful read, it's also one that might require a walk around the block to properly digest as soon as you've finished." --Katherine Tamola, Shondaland, 1 of 9 Reads You Won't Be Able to Put Down

"This dazzling, haunting novel is an intergenerational epic, an often devastating, but beautiful accounting of family bonds, the love of mothers and sons, and the enduring strength of Black women and their legacies . . . Wilkerson Sexton deftly explores the ways in which the past isn't prologue, but is actually what exists between the lines of our presently lived stories." --Kristin Iversen, NYLON, 1 of the 34 Books You'll Want to Read This Fall

"[A] much anticipated second novel . . . Sexton's novel is deftly structured into three parallel narratives, each intimately describing a woman in crisis seeking to free herself from a form of captivity . . . In this uplifting, graceful novel, the recovery of one's ancestral past is an act of empowerment--one that heals grief, clears one's heart of hatred, and replenishes one's hope in the future." --Darren Huang, Chicago Review of Books

"It's not often that novels with dueling narratives hold their weight all the way through. Usually one set of plot developments, cast of characters or style of writing carries favor over the other or others. But all three deftly interwoven storylines in Bay Area author Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's knockout of a sophomore novel are not just enthralling (enough to plow through in one sitting), they're equally soaked through with profound wisdom, far-reaching relevance and undeniable grace . . . What eventually happens to Josephine's family shouldn't come as a surprise to readers, given the annals of America's dark, shameful history. But Sexton never resorts to cliche or mawkish prose. Instead, she writes candidly and from the heart, linking Josephine's bone-deep trauma and "gnarled . . . monstrous, unyielding" rage to Ava's modern-day burdens. We feel her words' impact not just on our collective consciousness, but on our souls. At its most obvious, The Revisioners examines white privilege and the effects of entrenched racism before the Civil War, after Reconstruction and--as King learns what it means to be the only dark-skinned boy at his new school--in the present day. But perhaps more important, it's also a novel where marginalized yet undeniably resilient black women are allowed to truly shine . . . The sheer power of The Revisioners proves Sexton isn't a one-shot writer. She has immense talent." --Alexis Burling, San Francisco Chronicle

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's follow-up to her fabulous first novel A Kind of Freedom is a page-turning exploration of southern Black women's stories . . . Witnessing the way these stories intersect and speak to one another is one of the novel's great pleasures. Sexton's characters stick in your mind, and she makes you care deeply about their struggles and their triumphs. It's a powerful, sweeping novel of hardship, survival, and hope." --Rebecca Hussey, Book Riot

"If you read Wilkerson Sexton's debut novel A Kind of Freedom, you know she has an incredible gift for finding the circumstances and struggles that connect many generations of African Americans. The Revisioners gives voice to a too often silent history and features real, layered, dynamic characters that will stay with you far past the last page." --Susie Dumond, Book Riot, 1 of 8 Captivating New Historical Books to Read This Season

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's new novel is a poignant exploration of Blackness in the American South." --Cristina Arreola, Bustle, 1 of the 19 Best New Books of the Month

"An arresting new novel . . . Two years after her National Book Award-nominated debut, A Kind of Freedom, Sexton pens a transgenerational story about the relationships between marginalized and empowered women, black motherhood and survival in the American South . . . Oscillating between generations, Wilkerson Sexton examines white privilege before the Civil War, after Reconstruction and in present day. Notably, in both characters' cases, how even well-meaning white women's actions can have unintentionally disastrous effects on the black folks around them. She also celebrates the perseverance of both women--fueled largely by their desire to provide for their families at all costs. Part historical novel, part magical realism and part slow-burn thriller, The Revisioners would be right at home with the writing of Jesmyn Ward, Ta-Nehisi Coates (especially his recent foray into fiction, The Water Dancer) and Colson Whitehead. With her astute chronicles of contemporary black womanhood, Wilkerson Sexton has officially cemented her status as a master storyteller." --Sarah Stiefvater, PureWow, 1 of 8 Books to Read This Month

"Take a look back through the annals of any American family--even your own--and you'll likely find a lineage full of experiences: the good, the bad, even the traumatic. But it's how we learn to endure through our histories that, in turn, creates a legacy worth carrying on. Such is the fertile ground Margaret Wilkerson Sexton so vividly explores in her writing . . . Her latest work, The Revisioners, elegantly evokes various perspectives of the American South to tell the stories of survivors and healers . . . This is a novel at once entrenched in race and insidious privilege, but also familial sacrifice and breaking free of old evils." --Katie Tamola, Shondaland

"The narratives of two women living a century apart in NOLA take on race, friendship, motherhood, and more. Your heart will hurt, then swell." --Women's Health

"A sweeping, historical novel set in the American South that examines the relationship between Black women separated by decades, as well as mothers and their children." --Quinn Keaney, Popsugar, 1 of 15 New Books Worth Obsessing Over This Month

"If you like epic family sagas that span generations, this one's for you. The Revisioners takes place across three generations of black women, from 1855 to the present day. Cancel your plans, because you won't want to put it down." --Elizabeth Entenman, HelloGiggles

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton has crafted an unforgettable story of strong women through multiple generations of one African American family in Louisiana . . . This novel has unforgettable characters and settings coupled with a tightly woven plot. I could not put it down and read it over again. A great read." --Linda Harris Sittig, Historical Novel Society

"The Revisioners is a passionate exploration of liberty, heritage, sisterhood and motherhood in New Orleans . . . Sexton's characters' realistic interior thoughts drive the novel, revealing hidden emotions of apprehension and nostalgia . . . The Revisioners is an uplifting novel of black women and their tenacity." --Edith Kanyagia, BookPage

"The Revisioners . . . is about the bonds between mothers and their children, and the dangers that upend those bonds." --Karin Gillespie, The Augusta Chronicle

"There are multiple reasons to read a novel by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. Premium among them are complex characters cut from the richest soil . . . Ultimately, marvelously, The Revisioners is simultaneously authentic, human, grim, and yet, uplifting." --Lou Fancher, Oakland Magazine

"A transcendent tale of women's strength in the face of racial turmoil as it passes through generations." --Susan Larson, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

"In her new novel, The Revisioners, Oakland writer Margaret Wilkerson Sexton explores the legacy of slavery in a time-hopping tale of ancestral pain and healing . . . Each setting [in the novel] is infused with the details of family life, each character delineated with sensitivity and empathy . . . The Revisioners has its tragic moments, but it also offers a note of optimism." --Michael Berry, East Bay Express

"[The Revisioners is] a moving tale of lingering racism past and present, and a family of women healers who try to move beyond it." --Susan Larson, The Reading Life, WWNO

"Sexton masterfully uses magical realism and spirituality to ward off the microagressions and racial degradations whites inflict againsts Blacks. Only affirmed the many truths I'd already known of white entitlement, rage, and dishonesty. Moreover, it raised a larger notion of what it must mean to carry those burdens, of inheriting powers beyond our belief, and I found catharsis in the true might of ancestral spirituality that was passed down to deliver us from those sorrows. Written in the vein of Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing, Sexton is a gifted storyteller who not only lends credence to the emotional endurance of her people but to the boundless power Black women can summon to survive." --Paris Close, Paperback Paris, 1 of the 60 Best Books of the Year

"I was mesmerized by The Revisioners, a time-bending epic about family, desire, strength, and terror, as well as the possibly supernatural power of the stories we tell ourselves. Was mesmerized? Am mesmerized, will remain mesmerized. Sexton's novel is extraordinary, and its effects will go on and on." --R. O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's writing is graceful and stylish, her truths relevant and necessary--it's just so exhilarating to read her. I was mesmerized by The Revisioners, an impeccable novel of magic, loss, and family, all anchored by generations of powerful women." --Jami Attenberg, author of All Grown Up

"I read this wonderful novel nearly in a single sitting, carried along by its exemplary pacing and structure, its rich cast of characters, and its deft explorations of trauma, cruelty, survival, and love. Written in a haunted present and a past that's not past, The Revisioners honors the living and the lost in a painful, tender testament to the power of fiction." --Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

"This elegant and powerful novel sweeps you up from the very first page, spanning the last gasps of slavery to the present day. The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton plunges you deep within the complexity of a Louisiana family as the echoes of history repeat over generations and provides a powerful testament to the ingenuity and resilience of women protecting themselves and those they love in an unyielding world." --Lalita Tademy, New York Times bestselling author of Cane River, Red River, and Citizens Creek

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's The Revisioners is a sweeping, deeply felt meditation on sacrifice and survival. Nuanced and elegantly told, The Revisioners reminds us that history is alive and that we should never lose hope." --Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar

"Margaret Wilkerson Sexton has done it again with The Revisioners, where ties beyond family bind us to the past. A novel as beautiful as it is hauntingly dazzling, it's filmic in scope and sensory detail." --Nafissa Thompson-Spires, author of Heads of the Colored People

"In paying homage to the triumph of black women who survived and even thrived in a society built to deny them dignity, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton has written an astonishing novel. The Revisioners is nothing less than a rare celebration of the power of women and mothers to build a better future. Sexton's style is fluid and seamless, and readers will find themselves hoping to meet Ava and Josephine in real life." --Maurice Carlos Ruffin, author of We Cast a Shadow

Praise for A Kind of Freedom

Long-listed for the National Book Award in Fiction
Winner of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association
Long-listed for the NCIBA Book Award for Fiction
A New York Times Notable Book
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Named a Best Book of the Year by San Francisco Chronicle, BBC Culture, Southern Living, Chicago Public Library, PureWow, and East Bay Express

"This emotionally wrenching, character-rich debut spans three generations in a city deeply impacted by segregation, economic inequality, and racial tensions . . . Being able to capture 70 years of New Orleans history and the emotional changes in one family in such a short book is a testament to Sexton's powers of descriptive restraint. In this fine debut, each generation comes with new possibilities and deferred dreams blossoming with the hope that this time, finally, those dreams may come to fruition." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Sexton subtly lays bare the ever-present societal forces at work to undermine black success and family." --HuffPost

"Sad, proud, provocative and quietly educational, with dialogue that credibly spans 70 years of black New Orleans vernacular, A Kind of Freedom begs for a screen adaptation. You wait and see." --Newsday

"This luminous and assured first novel shines an unflinching, compassionate light on three generations of a black family in New Orleans, emphasizing endurance more than damage." --The New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

"Sexton's first novel is set in New Orleans from the mid-1940s to the city's ruthless real estate makeover years after Hurricane Katrina. Delivered by three accomplished narrators, the story moves through three generations of a black family, starting with the daughter of a pioneering doctor and his Creole wife, who have set themselves against her marrying the hard-working son of a janitor. This moving debut is ingeniously told in its passage back and forth through lives and changing times." --The Washington Post

"As tragic as it is necessary. Each character is compelling and nuanced, making the reader all the more sorry to leave them at book's end." --Shondaland

"Sexton is a gifted storyteller who not only lends credence to the emotional endurance of her people but to the boundless power Black women can summon to survive." --Paris Close, Paperback Paris

"This wonderful debut by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton explores three generations in the life of an African American family living in New Orleans, beginning with World War II-era Evelyn and continuing through history by unfolding the lives of Evelyn's daughter, Jackie, and Jackie's

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