HarperCollins Publishers (New York)

16 July 2007

Africa: Novel Blends Caribbean History, African Culture, and American Sensibilities

book listing

Haunted by scandal and secrets, Lillian Baptiste fled Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival—songs about a village on a mountaintop littered with secrets, masquerades that supposedly fly and wreak havoc, and a man who suddenly and mysteriously dropped dead.

After twenty years away, Lillian returns to her native island to face the demons of her past—and with the help of Teddy, a man who has loved her for many years, she may yet find a way to heal.

Set in both contemporary Washington, D.C., and post-World War II Dominica, Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities. Richly textured and lushly rendered, Unburnable showcases a welcome and assured new voice.


Nigerian literary Star Chimamanda Adichie picks Caribbean novel UNBURNABLE for The Guardian's Great Escape

Award-winning literary phenomenon Chimamanda Adichie has singled out Caribbean writer Marie-Elena John's debut novel Unburnable as "wondrously intelligent" and recounts that she laughed out loud often during her read.

In London's The Guardian review section, a number of famed authors were asked to name book they'd enjoyed on their travels. Adichie identified Unburnable, which is shortlisted for the 2007 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in the Debut Fiction category. Interestingly, that award was won by Adichie in 2004 for Purple Hibiscus. Adichie is also a nominee for the 2007 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in the Fiction category for Half of a Yellow Sun.

John and Adichie share another connection: John lived in the early 1980s as an exchange student on the same campus (University of Nigeria, Nsukka) where Adichie grew up. At the time, Adichie would have been about five years old, while John celebrated her twenty-first birthday in Nsukka.

John spent subsequently spent over a decade as an Africa development specialist before turning to writing, working with organizations including The African Development Foundation and Global Rights (formerly The International Human Rights Law Group), both based in Washington, D.C.

Antigua native Marie-Elena John graduated as the City College of New York’s first black woman valedictorian and later earned a master’s degree from Columbia University. A former Africa development specialist, she lives with her husband and two children in Washington, D.C., and Antigua.

Unburnable: A Novel

By Marie-Elena John

ISBN: 9780060837570; ISBN10: 0060837578; Imprint: Amistad ; On Sale: 4/11/2006; Format: Hardcover; Pages: 304

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