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A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time, and fate. Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time, and fate. Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner—whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s. A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like her ancestors, Kath Ella’s life is shaped by hardship—she struggles to conceive and to provide for her family during the long, bitter Canadian winters. She must also contend with the locals’ lingering suspicions about the dark-skinned “outsiders” who live in their midst. Kath Ella’s fierce love for her son, Omar, cannot help her overcome the racial prejudices that linger in this remote, tight-knit place. As he grows up, the rebellious Omar refutes the past and decides to break from the family, threatening to upend all that Kath Ella and her people have tried to build. Over the decades, each successive generation drifts further from Africaville, yet they take a piece of this indelible place with them as they make their way to Montreal, Vermont, and beyond, to the deep South of America. As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.


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A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time, and fate. Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time, and fate. Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner—whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s. A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like her ancestors, Kath Ella’s life is shaped by hardship—she struggles to conceive and to provide for her family during the long, bitter Canadian winters. She must also contend with the locals’ lingering suspicions about the dark-skinned “outsiders” who live in their midst. Kath Ella’s fierce love for her son, Omar, cannot help her overcome the racial prejudices that linger in this remote, tight-knit place. As he grows up, the rebellious Omar refutes the past and decides to break from the family, threatening to upend all that Kath Ella and her people have tried to build. Over the decades, each successive generation drifts further from Africaville, yet they take a piece of this indelible place with them as they make their way to Montreal, Vermont, and beyond, to the deep South of America. As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.

30 review for Africaville

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    3.5 stars Africaville is the story of one family in three generations over time. As former slaves, the family settles in Nova Scotia. The family members depicted are Kath Ella, her son, Omar/Etienne, and Kath Ella’s grandson, Warner. They experience the ups and downs of the twentieth century, which unfortunately had the family experiencing more than its share of downs, inclding hardship and turmoil. Racial prejudices exist for each generation, which contributes further to the hardship. Eventually 3.5 stars Africaville is the story of one family in three generations over time. As former slaves, the family settles in Nova Scotia. The family members depicted are Kath Ella, her son, Omar/Etienne, and Kath Ella’s grandson, Warner. They experience the ups and downs of the twentieth century, which unfortunately had the family experiencing more than its share of downs, inclding hardship and turmoil. Racial prejudices exist for each generation, which contributes further to the hardship. Eventually the family leaves this place, Africaville, yet they are never too far from home figuratively because it has become a part of them. Africaville addresses several important social issues and themes. The sense of place, of home, and belonging is at the center of the narrative. It’s also a story of this family of former slaves’ experience over time and across generations. The writing is strong and lyrical, and there’s stunning atmosphere. Africaville is a literary work more so than is typical in historical fiction. The writing definitely takes the front seat in this story. I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I thought the premise of this sounded so interesting - three generations of the Sebolt family are highlighted in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. The Sebolt family and other residents of the town settled there after they were freed from the American South, or were transported from the West Indies. I live in Buffalo, NY so Canada is a stone's throw away, but don't recall learning about this community and wanted to learn more about it. I thought this was a very solid effort and enjoyed it, but I thought the premise of this sounded so interesting - three generations of the Sebolt family are highlighted in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. The Sebolt family and other residents of the town settled there after they were freed from the American South, or were transported from the West Indies. I live in Buffalo, NY so Canada is a stone's throw away, but don't recall learning about this community and wanted to learn more about it. I thought this was a very solid effort and enjoyed it, but I definitely understand why a lot of people struggled. The change in perspective was sometimes quite jarring and the mostly third person narrative (which luckily didn't bother me), made it challenging at times. I enjoy different writing styles and didn't have much trouble re-gaining my footing with said jarring, but sometimes it's hard to persevere in instances like this. I enjoyed Kath Ella's perspective the most and found her spirit admirable against so many injustices. Particularly, with regard to her relationship with her best friend Kiendra. There is a lot to relate to here and I think if you have some patience and time, this makes for a treat for any lover of family sagas and historical fiction. Thank you to Netgalley, Harpercollins Publishers and Jeffrey Colvin for the opportunity to read this book and provide an honest review. Review Date: 12/11/2019 Publication Date: 12/10/2019

  3. 5 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    A saga from Jamaica to Nova Scotia where a village community grows into Africaville. There is an arc of this story that springs up and over and down, like Noah’s rainbow – colored by the different families that mix and mingle and create a new family line. Starting out dark-skinned, with all the trials and tribulations piled on by society, the descendants at story’s end find a surprise as they reach back for family. Reacquainting, redefining and revisiting the prejudices of persons, places and A saga from Jamaica to Nova Scotia where a village community grows into Africaville. There is an arc of this story that springs up and over and down, like Noah’s rainbow – colored by the different families that mix and mingle and create a new family line. Starting out dark-skinned, with all the trials and tribulations piled on by society, the descendants at story’s end find a surprise as they reach back for family. Reacquainting, redefining and revisiting the prejudices of persons, places and communities – all considered settled present themselves again, in a different skin. Is everything the same or has it completely changed? Lovely writing, well-drawn characters and all the history a reader needs to stay up with the flow of the narrative. With so many characters, which were needed to go through the many families involved in three plus generations, I would have liked a deeper dig at each, along with more time in the storyline before moving on to the next event and character. Also, it should be noted that this is an adult tale, with adult activities described in detail. The rhythm of the telling felt unbalanced now and again, but the end felt steady, strong and hopeful – my kind of conclusion. A sincere thanks to Jeffrey Colvin, HarperCollins Publishers and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Keyona

    I will start by saying that learning about this real Black community in Nova Scotia was refreshing. Multigenerational stories are my favorite but this one fell flat for me. I could not connect to any of these characters. They all felt like I was watching them through a glass window. The first point of view we get is from Kath Ella. It seems like the author struggled to write this female character. Her thoughts and actions just didn’t seem believable. I noticed this trend throughout the book. I will start by saying that learning about this real Black community in Nova Scotia was refreshing. Multigenerational stories are my favorite but this one fell flat for me. I could not connect to any of these characters. They all felt like I was watching them through a glass window. The first point of view we get is from Kath Ella. It seems like the author struggled to write this female character. Her thoughts and actions just didn’t seem believable. I noticed this trend throughout the book. These characters are shown to us one way but then he has them do things that are just like wait what? There were at least five characters in this book that took up a bit of space, yet there really seemed to be no point to them in the end. I think Colvin also struggled with how to get to the next generation and it showed. It didn’t flow and you could always tell when we were done with one character and moving to the next generation. The pacing was also a bit clunky. Every sex scene was just...awkward and made me feel uncomfortable. It was like I was watching the kind of sexual acts I would have to delete out of my search engine! The book also seemed much longer than it really needed to be. To be honest, this would have been a DNF if I didn’t have to read this for the tour. I think this book attempted to be the Black Canadian version of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee because the themes are very similar. However, Pachinko has a seamless flow into the next generation and characters we actually care about.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin Starting in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1918, this family saga carries us to 1992 with the complexities of four generations living in Canada and the U.S. It is centered around a neighborhood eventually named Africaville. The entire story is about people being judged by where they live or lived and go to school. Heavy emphasis is placed on where to be buried, of accepting or not accepting their own race (black “passing” as white), loyalty to family and who to visit or not Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin Starting in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1918, this family saga carries us to 1992 with the complexities of four generations living in Canada and the U.S. It is centered around a neighborhood eventually named Africaville. The entire story is about people being judged by where they live or lived and go to school. Heavy emphasis is placed on where to be buried, of accepting or not accepting their own race (black “passing” as white), loyalty to family and who to visit or not visit, whether far or near. Grudges are held for long periods Most of the story is told in the third person with very little conversation or action. Much of what happens is through people’s thoughts and memories as told by the author. There is no narrator or central protagonist. People are there and then gone in the next paragraph. I found the novel very dry not very engaging. I did not see it going anywhere for most of the story. It was a valiant effort by this author, but just didn’t do it for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melyssa

    Read all of my reviews at bit.ly/PageBedtime 3.5/5 stars Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin is a fictional, generational story that centers on the Sebolt and Platt families. Over the course of nearly 400 pages, the author takes us on a journey of this black family and their struggles with race, gender and other societal issues. The result is a detailed and creative novel based on historical facts that were well researched by the author. My reading journey with this book started slowly. It was a little Read all of my reviews at bit.ly/PageBedtime 3.5/5 stars Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin is a fictional, generational story that centers on the Sebolt and Platt families. Over the course of nearly 400 pages, the author takes us on a journey of this black family and their struggles with race, gender and other societal issues. The result is a detailed and creative novel based on historical facts that were well researched by the author. My reading journey with this book started slowly. It was a little difficult for me to get into at first; however, I did find the storylines of Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner to be engaging. I think the author did an excellent job of capturing the feel of the various time periods presented in the novel. I also appreciated his ability to vividly describe scenes without overwhelming the reader with dialogue. The most challenging aspect of the book for me was the abrupt changes in perspective and flashbacks in time. Sometimes it took me a couple of paragraphs to re-orient myself then I'd have to go back and reread passages to get a fuller understanding. I forged ahead because of my commitment to provide a thorough review. However, if this book was one that I had picked up for leisure reading, I probably would have given up on it, which would have been a shame because the overall story was compelling. I wonder how different the novel might have been if it was divided and each generation of Sebolts/Platts had his or her own novel. Recommendation: This is a valiant debut novel, and I think the author has a promising future in creative writing. I'd recommend this read when you have time to really delve into it. Until next time ... Read on! Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. Read all of my reviews at bit.ly/PageBedtime

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Allen

    I received an unedited advanced DRC from Above the Treeline. Thank you to Amistad Publishing for allowing me to read this book for a review. I have always hungered to know more about my ancestors and where they came from. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my identity as an American of obvious African descent. I am relatively certain that my ancestors came to North America through the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, I just have no idea of where we were taken and how we got to where we I received an unedited advanced DRC from Above the Treeline. Thank you to Amistad Publishing for allowing me to read this book for a review. I have always hungered to know more about my ancestors and where they came from. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my identity as an American of obvious African descent. I am relatively certain that my ancestors came to North America through the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, I just have no idea of where we were taken and how we got to where we are today. Because of that hunger and uncertainty, I love reading stories (whether fiction or non) that follow or trace a families origins/heritage. I honestly did not know what to expect after reading a couple of chapters of Africaville. I was raised in the US and I do not recall ever learning about blacks in Nova Scotia. Because of that, I stopped reading the book for a couple weeks so that I could research. What I learned helped me to connect better with the book and also to understand the characters. This story mainly focuses on the lives of Kath Ella Seabolt, Omar Platt, their child Etienne, and other family members such as Omar’s mother and Etienne’s son. It is an absolute beautifully written and heartbreaking tale of the lives some of their family’s lineage between the years of 1918-1992 and how they found their lives connected and entwined from Mississippi to Halifax. Reading this made me realize once again, just how broad the slave trade was. Growing up in the US we are mainly only taught about slavery in the US, and very seldom learn in k-12 about the hardships that were endured by families afterwards. Though the pace of the book is a lot more unique than other books that I have read, I thoroughly enjoyed Africaville. It has opened my eyes so much and I look forward to reading more about African descendants in Nova Scotia.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cam

    Thank you publisher and Netgalley for this book to review. I’ve attempted several times to get into this book but I struggled again and again. I couldn’t get into this book. I’m sorry.! It had nothing to do with the content. I believe it was the authors writing style that I had a hard time with.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Comparison is seriously the theft of joy. I went into this expecting something like Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing" and instead I got a series of incredibly flat and slightly unbelievable characters. Not a single decision truly made sense to me, and not a single character's thoughts/actions lined up - it was just too all over the place. However, I will say that it was pretty dope to learn about the community of Africaville (Africville) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. As an African-American, I'm always Comparison is seriously the theft of joy. I went into this expecting something like Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing" and instead I got a series of incredibly flat and slightly unbelievable characters. Not a single decision truly made sense to me, and not a single character's thoughts/actions lined up - it was just too all over the place. However, I will say that it was pretty dope to learn about the community of Africaville (Africville) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. As an African-American, I'm always interested in seeing how others have fared in the diaspora and the communities that have been built (& sadly, usually destroyed). This book did an excellent job of sparking my curiosity regarding Africville.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Burns

    Oh I was so disappointed with this one. I asked for it for Christmas, as I live near Africville, have been to the museum, talk about this history a lot with my students and couldn't wait to read this historical novel. But..... the writing is very disjointed, I found it very hard to get into any of the characters. Everything seemed so abrupt, and with no feeling behind how any of the characters got to the decisions they made or why they made the decisions they made. Also awful, awful sex scenes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    So much in this book - more usually is less but here, less left me wanting more. That there was a vibrant community of blacks in Halifax after the war, settled by escaped slaves and others, was news. Who wouldn't want to learn more? Then we meet the Sebold family and the ways in which family history and identity can change over the generations, sometimes wittingly and sometimes not. And again, more, please. This story lost points because the elisions and the lack of opportunity to explore the So much in this book - more usually is less but here, less left me wanting more. That there was a vibrant community of blacks in Halifax after the war, settled by escaped slaves and others, was news. Who wouldn't want to learn more? Then we meet the Sebold family and the ways in which family history and identity can change over the generations, sometimes wittingly and sometimes not. And again, more, please. This story lost points because the elisions and the lack of opportunity to explore the questions raised in greater detail. eARC provided by publisher.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    This is the story of three generations of the Seabolt family, descendants former slaves who settles in Wind Bluff, Nova Scotia. Legend has it that some of the first settlers back in the 18th century were American slaves who had been put on a ship headed back to Africa that was lost at sea, and these souls made their way back to shore. By the time the story begins, it's the 1930s, and many newer residents have moved north to look for work and escape from the Jim Crow South. Kath Ella Seabolt has This is the story of three generations of the Seabolt family, descendants former slaves who settles in Wind Bluff, Nova Scotia. Legend has it that some of the first settlers back in the 18th century were American slaves who had been put on a ship headed back to Africa that was lost at sea, and these souls made their way back to shore. By the time the story begins, it's the 1930s, and many newer residents have moved north to look for work and escape from the Jim Crow South. Kath Ella Seabolt has secured a scholarship to a Montreal college when she finds herself pregnant. She believes her life plan is ruined and that she has no choice but to settle down in her home town with her child's father, Omar. Until fate, both tragic and fortuitous, steps in. The first of three parts focuses mainly on Kath Ella, who finds a way to continue her education and marries a white French-Canadian that she meets in Montreal. It seems unlikely that she will ever return to her home town. In addition to Kath's story, this section develops a portrait of Wind Bluff and the nearby towns, also primarily black, and the conflicts among the various groups in the community: people descended from Jamaicans, Haitians, and American slaves who hold differing opinions of one another's culture. The second part of 'Africaville' follows Kath's son Omar. Raised by his grandmother for the first few years of his life, he's smart enough to secure a spot in a good school but finds himself often challenged by the other boys. The black students, including his cousin, bait him for not being black enough, and the white boys bully him for being black. Talk about identity issues! When Kath marries, Omar is adopted by his stepfather, who insists that he change his name to Etienne. As he attends college and moves out into the world, he accepts that it's easier for him to just accept what people think they see: a white man. His wife, who is white, knows his history, and she is the one who questions why there are no photographs of his mother in the house. While Etienne loves his mother and stepfather dearly and maintains as close a relationship with them as time and distance allows, his life is clearly compartmentalized. It's Etienne's son Warner, the focal character in Part Three, who longs to connect with his familial past, even taking a job in Alabama near the town where his grandfather Omar's parents lived before they got in trouble with the law and sent him up to Canada to be raised by his paternal grandparents. Like his father, Warner is usually taken for a white man, and for the most part, living in the Deep South, he doesn't object. But he is disturbed by the bigotry surrounding him, and he wants to know more about his great grandmother, who is serving a life sentence for murder, and about his grandmother Kath Ella and rest of the the family in Nova Scotia. While 'Africaville' is a family saga, in many ways it is also the story of race in North American culture. I really never thought much about what life might have been like for the freed and escaped slaves who ended up n Canada. I found it an interesting book, but the pace is a bit uneven, and the author's use of several repeated motifs to connect the three parts and to show that some things change but others never do may be a bit heavy-handed. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy’s Booket List

    This is one of those books that you know is going to be important and you know is going to be good. When you open the cover, you know you are going to be affected. Somehow, the author is going to reach into your heart and mind and make an imprint, whether or not you want them to. Do you know what I mean? It's also a book that I feel will be polarizing for some because it doesn't necessarily follow a traditional story telling path. Jeffrey Colvin chose to tell a more nuanced story through the This is one of those books that you know is going to be important and you know is going to be good. When you open the cover, you know you are going to be affected. Somehow, the author is going to reach into your heart and mind and make an imprint, whether or not you want them to. Do you know what I mean? It's also a book that I feel will be polarizing for some because it doesn't necessarily follow a traditional story telling path. Jeffrey Colvin chose to tell a more nuanced story through the memories and experiences of multiple generations of a family living in different places. Due to his narrative style, it's a little harder to get hooked into the action of the story, but also creates a much broader and layered depiction of these towns and these people as they grow and change through time. Africaville is a journey. It takes the reader to different countries, different civilizations, and different time periods. It's almost too much for one book, because I felt overwhelmed with the amount of information. The characters are flawed but rendered flawlessly. There is so much depth to each person, their story, and how they impact one another for years to come. I honestly believe this book could be studied in literature classes. My English degree is begging me to write an analytical essay on the themes and cultural contexts explored by Jeffrey Colvin, but I know not everyone considers this a fun use of time. I love reading books that expose me to different experiences and force me to open my eyes and mind to other cultures. Africaville does this almost effortlessly. I would recommend this book to anyone, anytime.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ella

    thoughts to come 3.5 I liked this quite a bit. I'm not sure how to take many of the other reviews that don't like the third person narrative - mostly because I've read so many other similar takes on both second person and first and omniscient, it seems everyone has a favorite and dislikes others. So I didn't mind that. It did take me too long to really "get into" this one and I nearly gave up once because I thought it wasn't for me. Soon after that, I was sucked into this family's saga, and I thoughts to come 3.5 I liked this quite a bit. I'm not sure how to take many of the other reviews that don't like the third person narrative - mostly because I've read so many other similar takes on both second person and first and omniscient, it seems everyone has a favorite and dislikes others. So I didn't mind that. It did take me too long to really "get into" this one and I nearly gave up once because I thought it wasn't for me. Soon after that, I was sucked into this family's saga, and I appreciated it quite a bit for what it was - the "character" study of a town, a time and a family all in one. That family has been torn apart by race and ideas about what "white" and "black" are - while the world either forgets that loads of us live in between or at best is highly uncomfortable with this. We see this most as we get closer to current times. When someone finds he has black family, his liberal friends (and family) don't react the way he expects, nor does he! It causes cognitive dissonance, and that's where I thought the book could have lived more thoroughly - even in the earlier chapters. People had feelings about these things long before our more modern days. Being separated from family purely because of skin color has always been painful. No matter what, I'm glad I read this. I look forward to more from Jeffrey Colvin. This is a very promising debut.

  15. 4 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    30/11/19 A sincere thank you to Amistad for gifting me a copy of Africaville :) You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I know this book has received high marks, however, I just did not care for Colvin's writing style. I certainly don't expect stories to take a linear path, but this story is all over the place, changing time periods and locations sometimes from paragraph to paragraph. I only completed it for the history of Nova Scotia and the black communities who lived there. The themes of race, justice and redemption are well-portrayed. An ambitious novel from a historical perspective, but the writing lacks I know this book has received high marks, however, I just did not care for Colvin's writing style. I certainly don't expect stories to take a linear path, but this story is all over the place, changing time periods and locations sometimes from paragraph to paragraph. I only completed it for the history of Nova Scotia and the black communities who lived there. The themes of race, justice and redemption are well-portrayed. An ambitious novel from a historical perspective, but the writing lacks flow and beauty.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Aylward

    For those of us who grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s , like I did, we lived separately and “equally”. This puts that myth to rest in an elegant and well written way. I will remember this book the rest of my life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    thoughts coming shortly

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anneke

    I found this book to be very boring. I was just too slow for me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    This is a unique and beautiful saga that spans generations, and takes place across Canada and the U.S. It provides a glimpse into a culture that I never knew existed, but found fascinating. This is a must read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    This reads like a poorly done translation from some obscure foreign language,it's painful and awkward to read.The subject is interesting,too many characters and locations render it confusing and difficult to follow.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Read In Colour

    I'd built up such hopes for Africaville, only to be slightly let down by it. It could be that I held it to the same standard's as Lawrence Hill's Any Known Blood or The Book of Negroes, since all three have a bit of Canada/Nova Scotia/America crossover. Unfortunately, it just didn't meet that standard. What started as a promising story line with Kath Ella was squandered initially with her son, Etienne's, story and, eventually, her grandson's. I never really got a clear picture of what the author I'd built up such hopes for Africaville, only to be slightly let down by it. It could be that I held it to the same standard's as Lawrence Hill's Any Known Blood or The Book of Negroes, since all three have a bit of Canada/Nova Scotia/America crossover. Unfortunately, it just didn't meet that standard. What started as a promising story line with Kath Ella was squandered initially with her son, Etienne's, story and, eventually, her grandson's. I never really got a clear picture of what the author was trying to convey or what he wanted the story to be with the latter two characters. I think I would have appreciated a deeper dive into Kath Ella's story line and more abbreviated versions of her son and grandson.

  23. 4 out of 5

    courtney lynn (reorganizedreads)

    A huge thank you to Amistad, an extension of HarperCollins Publishing and Netgalley for giving me an advanced copy of this book! Africavillle is the debut novel by Jeffrey Colvin, set to release next Tues, Dec 10th! If you like historical fiction that deals with lesser known aspects of history or are looking to read outside the white, colonial narrative, this would be a great one to pick up. Africaville tells the multigenerational story of the Sebolt family and how time and location play pivotal A huge thank you to Amistad, an extension of HarperCollins Publishing and Netgalley for giving me an advanced copy of this book! Africavillle is the debut novel by Jeffrey Colvin, set to release next Tues, Dec 10th! If you like historical fiction that deals with lesser known aspects of history or are looking to read outside the white, colonial narrative, this would be a great one to pick up. Africaville tells the multigenerational story of the Sebolt family and how time and location play pivotal role in how they each view their racial identity and how it impacts their relationships to one another. This story begins in the early 1900s in a small Nova Scotia town that was originally settled by former slaves who came from Sierra Leone, and later the Caribbean. From here, the story moves forward through the American South of the 60s, 80s and 90s. The major thematic elements in this novel consistently juxtapose one another in a way that implies each character feels a degree of Black dysphoria. We see opposing themes of: abandoning/returning to your roots, which town you "belong to," and how it gives you/detracts from your social standing, your ability to "pass" as either white or black and what that means for the relationship you have with your family/yourself, and how you accept/choose to ignore your origin story. There are likely other elements in this book that fall within the Black literature tradition that I am unaware of because this is outside of my own racial experience. The writing in this one is a healthy combination of introspection with external action that propel each character’s story forward at a meaningful pace. We see snippets of each character's lives and how these pieces of their history relate to the larger themes mentioned as well as to the generations that come after them. The apex of each character’s story occurs at different stages in their lives, and other significant moments (decline of health, death, birth of children, grandchildren, etc.) are mentioned in poignant ways that draw an adequate conclusion to their story. Nothing is handled with melodrama, and there are some reading in between the lines in terms of what is said, what is intended, and what is left unsaid. This novel expresses life for what it is given the time and place each of their character's stories unfold. It is a unique experience that tells the history of a group of people that is often largely overlooked. I think it is a story worth sharing, reflecting upon, and celebrating.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jarrett Neal

    I had high expectations for this novel but they fell flat about fifty pages in. Jeffrey Colvin has a compelling premise here. I don't think many African Americans are knowledgeable about Africaville and blacks who emigrated from the U.S. to Canada following emancipation. Colvin has a prime opportunity share this part of black history with readers but he wastes it. Africaville is an example of a novel that sacrifices the value of setting. Colvin neglects to concretize this novel. With each I had high expectations for this novel but they fell flat about fifty pages in. Jeffrey Colvin has a compelling premise here. I don't think many African Americans are knowledgeable about Africaville and blacks who emigrated from the U.S. to Canada following emancipation. Colvin has a prime opportunity share this part of black history with readers but he wastes it. Africaville is an example of a novel that sacrifices the value of setting. Colvin neglects to concretize this novel. With each passing generation--this book is, at its core, a multigenerational family drama--I struggled to determine where we were in history. Even though the action unfolds in the twentieth century, the novel felt, to me, as if it were set in the nineteenth century. This book lacks any details to help the reader place it historically and it contains few landmarks, allusions, or descriptive details. The result is that the characters and plot seem to be operating outside of time and history. It wasn't until after I completed this novel that I did some research and found out that Africaville was actually a real place, and it has a disturbing history. The major flaw of this historical novel is that the author fails to merge historical reality with transformative fiction. Colvin didn't do his research, and it shows. He neglects history so he can give attention to the boring, flat characters that populate the text. Learning more about Africaville and making a bridge between it, Black Canadians, and Black Americans would have elevated this novel into a diasporic tale containing historical and political weight. Yet Colvin has written an historical novel devoid of all history. I couldn't connect with any of these characters or their circumstances. The dialogue in this book is equally problematic; there's too much of it and it all sounds phony. Africaville could have been a superb multigenerational epic, but the author simply couldn't get out of the way of his own ambitions.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    On the bluffs of Halifax, Nova Scotia a group of freed slaves made a settlement for themselves in the late 1800's, eventually dubbed Africaville. Since then, the community grew; although they remained on the outskirts of town. In 1933, Kath Ella Sebolt is looking for a way out. A scholarshipto a a college in Montreal is her ticket, however trouble with her best friend Kiendra and a pregnancy with Omar Platt's child could complicate matters. Kath Ella wants more for her son, Etienne than she had. On the bluffs of Halifax, Nova Scotia a group of freed slaves made a settlement for themselves in the late 1800's, eventually dubbed Africaville.  Since then, the community grew; although they remained on the outskirts of town.  In 1933, Kath Ella Sebolt is looking for a way out.  A scholarship to a a college in Montreal is her ticket, however trouble with her best friend Kiendra and a pregnancy with Omar Platt's child could complicate matters.  Kath Ella wants more for her son, Etienne than she had.  Etienne does well for himself, but often struggles with the fact that he is what people would consider 'colored.'  Etienne's son Warner, now in Alabama is surprised to learn who his grandparents were and finds himself tied back to the small community in Nova Scotia.  Africaville is a family saga that captures to trials of four generations of a family in North America.  I was very interested in the community and it's foundations in Canada.  Picking up in the 1930's with Kath Ella, the story was able to depict the many different ways that racism was able to encroach on the residents of Africaville, from limited opportunities for education and jobs to violent retaliation.  For Kath Ella's son and grandson, the focus turns more on identity.  Colvin was able to capture the complex emotional turmoil of two men coming to terms with who they are.  One of the most interesting characters in the story for me was Zera, Omar's mother.  Zera was jailed for a protest and made the difficult decision to send her son to relatives in Africaville.  In a way, it is her legacy that pulls the other three generations together.  I would have loved to know more of her story and the events that led up to her arrest.   I would have also appreciated more information on the families that founded the town on the bluffs and how they came to settle there.  Overall, a sweeping family story of a group of people that history has forgotten. This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Debut Novel, Africaville, from Jeffrey Colvin started off a little slow then started moving at the speed of a tractor hoeing the fields in Halifax. Kath Ella is a young woman at the start of this book interchanging from the past of her family to the future throughout the book compromising her and her son Etienne's generational life. The story can be a little confusing when it jumps ahead into the future and back into the past as there is not a lead up into the next segment of said time frame. Debut Novel, Africaville, from Jeffrey Colvin started off a little slow then started moving at the speed of a tractor hoeing the fields in Halifax. Kath Ella is a young woman at the start of this book interchanging from the past of her family to the future throughout the book compromising her and her son Etienne's generational life. The story can be a little confusing when it jumps ahead into the future and back into the past as there is not a lead up into the next segment of said time frame. However, as much as you need a little change in gears it does not take away from the story itself. Life as a child living in a mixed-race family can be a struggle as we learn from Etienne. Africaville delves into the question of being confident enough in yourself that you can deal with other people's hang-ups back in the '50s through the '60s about interracial marriage. Even now, not everyone can be civil when it comes to race and intermarriage and this book gets communication and introspection going. The dilemma to try and be who you want to be, but still, be proud of your heritage can be very hard when you decide you just want to fit in. It would be very hard to decide, especially in the eras setting where you would fit in when you are constantly teased about being white-skinned while living in a black community or being black while living in a white community. I can't fathom it. Jeffrey Colvin does a great job of not being preachy when it comes to "crowing" and he doesn't force anything on the reader when it comes to decisions that are made in the story and the hardships that each character encounters. Each struggle is handled as if it is like any other day and that just broke my heart. No one should have to deal with brutality or race-baiting. This story is tragic, and yet provides hope when it is needed. The strength of the women in this book is awe-inspiring. I didn't want the story to end. I appreciate being able to read this book. Thank you Netgalley, Harper Collins Publishing and Jeffrey Colvin for the opportunity. This is my honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Abby Suzanne

    I was not expecting Africaville, by Jeffrey Colvin, to read more like an odyssey than a novel. Generally, I don't read synopses before I download a book from the library. If I see it recommended somewhere, I usually just go for it. Africaville was an epic read. I wasn't prepared for it to be a generational story, sweeping over a century or so of history and characters. Even though it was less than 400 pages, it read like a much longer book, but not in a bad way. I felt exhausted after I read it, I was not expecting Africaville, by Jeffrey Colvin, to read more like an odyssey than a novel. Generally, I don't read synopses before I download a book from the library. If I see it recommended somewhere, I usually just go for it. Africaville was an epic read. I wasn't prepared for it to be a generational story, sweeping over a century or so of history and characters. Even though it was less than 400 pages, it read like a much longer book, but not in a bad way. I felt exhausted after I read it, and I think that was kind of the point. The book was a wonderful read; even though the characters kept dying on me (spoiler alert maybe? If you know it's a generational book it's probably not a spoiler, but if you don't, whoops), I still felt attached to them. I think the best part of the book was it's ending; ending with the story of a character that appeared on and off in more minor roles in the previous 300 pages, but ultimately ending with the one character who'd lived through nearly the entire book. Reflecting on Africaville, I really feel like I ran a marathon through mud to get from the beginning to the end (a pleasant marathon, but a long one), because somehow Colvin made me feel like I'd seen and lived through all of the history of the Bluff and Africaville in less than 400 pages. I don't know how he did it, but it worked for me. I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it if you're looking for an epic, historical, roots-esque in the way it spans generations of an extended family type read in a much shorter book. It's a good one!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nandini Bhattacharya

    Africaville is, to put it briefly, stunning. It took me some time to grasp the reasons for the diffuseness of the book's events, characters, and topography. Frankly, names and places seemed to be jostling, crowding one another too closely, sending things out of focus. After reading more, though, and noting the peripatetic lives of so many characters of the community — living or dead — I began to realize that the mode is the matter. The diffuseness of the telling gestures at the fate and Africaville is, to put it briefly, stunning. It took me some time to grasp the reasons for the diffuseness of the book's events, characters, and topography. Frankly, names and places seemed to be jostling, crowding one another too closely, sending things out of focus. After reading more, though, and noting the peripatetic lives of so many characters of the community — living or dead — I began to realize that the mode is the matter. The diffuseness of the telling gestures at the fate and movements of the African diaspora, with corners and nooks of the world of Africaville and its residents left in gray shadows such as those an incomplete and unsutured people's history and memory create. How else does one talk about what happened to the African diaspora, and what continues to happen today in penitentiaries and purgatories in North America? Last but not least, the delineation of women characters in the book was outstanding, and Zera Platt was someone I got to know and like quite well.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    This family saga originates in a little known black community in Nova Scotia called Africaville. Former slaves from Jamaica were transported there where they learned French, farmed and dug in to create a unique town out of a very inhospitable landscape. This is the chronicle of the Sebolt family, three generations from the late 1800s through the tumultuous 1960s in Alabama and Mississippi to the end of the century. Culture and race relations play important roles in this story but it is really This family saga originates in a little known black community in Nova Scotia called Africaville. Former slaves from Jamaica were transported there where they learned French, farmed and dug in to create a unique town out of a very inhospitable landscape. This is the chronicle of the Sebolt family, three generations from the late 1800s through the tumultuous 1960s in Alabama and Mississippi to the end of the century. Culture and race relations play important roles in this story but it is really about family and finding your way through your family history. This debut is quietly told but with great purpose. The story and characters dig away at you with a slow burn of smoldering coals but there is always the tension in the background that warns of a blazing fire. Readers who enjoy books that outline black history or family sagas will find this community and its history fascinating. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Micebyliz

    I knew some of this history but it was interesting to read a novel about the people and get a different perspective. I have to say I preferred the 18th century story to the modern, just from an anthro point of view.. Not sure how to say this...i remember reading Memoirs of a Geisha, which was quite good, but it was written by a man and it didn't really hit the mark when it came to what women were feeling or thought--just not exactly--it was enough that i noticed and i wasn't looking for it, you I knew some of this history but it was interesting to read a novel about the people and get a different perspective. I have to say I preferred the 18th century story to the modern, just from an anthro point of view.. Not sure how to say this...i remember reading Memoirs of a Geisha, which was quite good, but it was written by a man and it didn't really hit the mark when it came to what women were feeling or thought--just not exactly--it was enough that i noticed and i wasn't looking for it, you know? i know it's difficult to write what might be inside someone else's head, and certainly i don't claim to be able to :) it's just that i noticed things i would have thought as Kath Ella the woman, and things i would have said (maybe, although we are different in other ways i guess) On the whole it was good and i think worth reading. The undercurrent of race prejudice is the glue that holds the book together. You can feel it humming while you read.

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