32 Books in 32 Days – The Countdown Begins

March 16, 2010 – Each day leading up to the April 17 announcement of the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature

2009 Novel & Short Story Finalist,
The Book of Night Women

Marlon James

Excerpt from an interview with Marlon James:

“Everything I’ve needed to say about slavery, every issue that I’ve wrestled with, is in the book. It’s not that I’m now going to shut up and never speak of these things again, but the book stands as my argument and now I’m free to speak about something else… when I realized I had a novel, I still did not know who was telling the story and would have left it at that until I realized that the novel is also a book about books. Somebody is telling this story, writing this story, somebody, like me, is fated to be witness… It was still very important to me that the voice felt true, if not always historically accurate… My job was to create people who refuse to leave your room even after you’ve closed the book.” – Marlon James

Marlon James’ sweeping and astonishing novel tells the story of Lilith, a slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation in the late eighteenth century who possesses a dark power. A group of slaves who call themselves the “Night Women” are plotting a revolt and assume Lilith’s powers will be the key to success. However, as Lilith begins to assume her identity she chooses a different path which poses a threat to the conspiracy.

James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and currently divides his time between Jamaica, Minnesota, and New York. He teaches literature and creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul. His first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The Book of Night Women was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.


“An excellent piece of literary work. This is a stand out work in all areas of literary achievement. Point of view and dialect blend to create a time and place that is palpable. The emotional level is excruciating as we witness forbidden love, love that is doomed because of society. And yet it is not a love story, but human story of struggle and victory, hope and hopelessness. An inventive and imaginative novel of slave life in Jamaica in the late 1700s and 1800 turn of the century.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“There is remarkable characterization in this novel, a story peopled with complex, flawed, engaging individuals. The author never falls back on caricature or cliché, but introduces us to authentic characters we come to care about. The whole book is beautifully written, with perfect pacing and skillful plotting.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“Marlon James has written an exquisite, haunting, and beautiful novel, impossible to resist. Like the best of literature, The Book of Night Women deserves to be passed down hand to hand, generation to generation.” – Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

The Book of Night Women is a slave narrative, a story of rebellion, and a testament to the human heart in conflict with itself. It is a book of rip and rhythm. Of violence and tenderness. Of the healing glance in all the hatred. It reads like Faulkner in another skin. It is a brave book. And like the best, and most dangerous, of stories, it seems as if it was just waiting to be told.” – Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin, Zoli and Dancer.

Check it Out! at the Saint Paul Public Library

Have you read The Book of Night Women? What are your thoughts? Did you vote yet for the Readers’ Choice Award? We welcome your comments!

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One comment on “32 Books in 32 Days – The Countdown Begins
  1. Jeff Walkup says:

    I was curious to learn more about Marlon James and “The Book of Night Women” and found a short YouTube clip that includes the story’s locales, history and more. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XcnJVWBfdI.

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