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Praisesong for the Widow

(Of the Diaspora - North America)

Paule Marshall Erica Vital-Lazare Opal Palmer Adisa

264 pages
Mcsweeney's Literary Arts Fund
Featuring a new original introduction by Opal Palmer Adisa

Avey Johnson—a Black, middle-aged, middle-class widow given to hats, gloves, and pearls—has long since put behind her the Harlem of her childhood. Then on a cruise to the Caribbean with two friends, inspired by a troubling dream, she senses her life beginning to unravel—and in a panic packs her bag in the middle of the night and abandons her friends at the next port of call. The unexpected and beautiful adventure that follows provides Avey with the links to the culture and history she has so long disavowed. Originally published in 1983, Praisesong for the Widow was a recipient of the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award, and is presented here in a beautiful new hardcover edition as the second title in McSweeney’s Of the Diaspora series.

"Astonishingly moving."
-Anne Tyler, The New York Times Book Review

About Of the Diaspora:
McSweeney's Of the Diaspora is a series of previously published works in Black literature whose themes, settings, characterizations, and conflicts evoke an experience, language, imagery and power born of the Middle Passage and the particular aesthetic which connects African-derived peoples to a shared artistic and ancestral past. Wesley Brown's Tragic Magic, the first novel in the series, was originally published in 1978 and championed by Toni Morrison during her tenure as an editor at Random House. This Of the Diaspora edition features a new introduction written by Brown for the series. Tragic Magic will be followed by Paule Marshall's novel of a Harlem widow claiming new life. Praisesong for the Widow was originally published in 1983 and was a recipient of the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award. The series is edited by writer Erica Vital-Lazare, a professor of creative writing and Marginalized Voices in literature at the College of Southern Nevada. Published in collectible hardcover editions with original cover art by Sunra Thompson, the first three works hail from Black American voices defined by what Amiri Baraka described as strong feeling "getting into new blues, from the old ones." Of the Diaspora-North America will be followed by series from the diasporic communities of Europe, the Caribbean and Brazil.
Author Bio
Paule Marshall was the author of Brown Girl, Brownstones; The Chosen Place, the Timeless People; Praisesong for the Widow; Soul Clap Hands and Sing; Reena and Other Stories; Merle; The Fisher King; Triangular Road; and Daughters. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she was Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She passed away in 2019.