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A Tall History of Sugar

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A haunting, epic Caribbean love story, reminiscent of García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera.

$28.95 $21.71

What people are saying…

“An epic tale of two soulmates: Moshe Fisher, born with mismatched eyes and pale skin that bruises easily, and Arrienne Christie, ‘her skin even at birth the color of the wettest molasses, with a purple tinge under the surface.’ Arrienne is his protector at school—and later his lover—but how they eventually wind up together is part of this unconventionally crafted story that spans decades, from the years before Jamaica’s independence to the 2010s. Forbes’ sentences are the stars here; it’s a book that rewards slow, careful reading.”
BuzzFeed, included in BuzzFeed’s Fall 2019 Preview

“Jamaican patois is just part of what animates A Tall History of Sugar by Howard University professor Curdella Forbes, who centers her memorable novel around a folktale of soul mates Moshe Fisher and Arrienne Christie. An adult Arrienne narrates the mysterious Caribbean fantasy.”
Essence, an October Book Pick

“One of the season’s most talked-about new releases . . . For readers interested in the history of Jamaica, the impact of colonialism, and the enduring power of relationships, this is a perfect book to pick up this fall.”
Bookish, one of Fall 2019’s Must-Read Novels

“History is ever present in the novel, both as a metaphor and metonym, with Jamaica being the frame in which such a story as Moshe’s and Arienne’s could have happened if it had been true. The novel is historically accurate. A Tall History of Sugar is both a love story, and a story about the lasting legacy of slavery and the impact of the colonial system on Jamaica.”
The Rumpus

“Unbelievably unique and also crushing . . . It’s a hard-hitting [book], but it’s so incredible.”
All The Books (BookRiot podcast), recommended by Liberty Hardy

“Curdella Forbes seamlessly weaves Jamaican English and the Queen’s English in this captivating novel . . . Part love story and part historical fiction, A Tall History of Sugar is a refreshing take on race and colonialism that moves between Jamaica and England.”
Electric Lit

“Four years before Jamaica gains independence from colonial rule, a mysterious little boy named Moshe is born. This epic novel follows his story, and that of his soul mate, through their otherworldly love story set against the backdrop of Jamaica’s history. The author took inspiration from Jamaican folklore for this one, so you can bet I’m excited to read it.”
SyFy Fangrrls, One of Eight New SFF Books to Read in October

“Forbes lets her novel sing with all the languages of Jamaica and Britain. She has an uncanny knack for patois and dialect, including Jamaican English, the Queen’s English, and everything in between. In some ways this book tells a story of a love too deep to become romantic. In other ways it’s a novel of colonialism and its tragic aftermath of racism and economic despair. But most of all, the book is a journey. The characters so vivid, their depictions so intimate, that the skin of the pages themselves almost pulse beneath the reader’s fingers. A powerful journey into the souls of two lovers, two countries, and the people caught in the wakes of empires.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred review, selected for the 2019 Fall Preview (Adult Fiction)

“Forbes’ novel, rich in metaphors and biblical and fairy-tale allusions, explores the cyclical nature of birth and death, and the overwhelming and terrifying power of love. It is also a forceful critique of colonialism . . . Born to this complicated heritage, Moshe and Arrienne discover their voices in art and social protest as Jamaica grapples with independence and identity. A fascinating post-colonial blend of romance, social history, and myth.”
Booklist, Starred review

“In her immersive modern fairy tale, Forbes unspools an unlikely love story as well as a haunting, hypnotic piece of postcolonial Jamaican history . . . Arrienne’s recount moves in hopscotch fashion, but it’s driven forward by her enchanting voice, to which Forbes brings an electric lyricism. Her dialogue beautifully captures the lilt and variety of Jamaican patois . . . Forbes’s ambitious, fantastic tale will appeal to fans of multigenerational sagas.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred review

“Opening in the late 1950s in Jamaica, ending in the present, and tracing a mysterious love affair, this story follows Moshe Fisher, a man born with a unique skin condition, and his soul mate, Arrienne Christie, who makes it her duty to protect him.”
Publishers Weekly, Fall 2019 Adult Announcements (Literary Fiction)

One of Booklist’s Best New Books of the Week!

Included in BookRiot’s Loved Pick/New Books Megalist!

Selected as a Publishers Weekly’s Pick of the Week for the week of September 30, 2019!

Included in BookRiot’s Fall 2019 Preview!

A Tall History of Sugar was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Big Literary Fiction Books of BookExpo 2019!

“I’m so impressed by this book! Curdella Forbes weaves a magical, melodic, folkloric tale of characters that I feel I utterly know, that are iconic in personality and description, yet somehow remain mysterious to me, leaving them constantly on my mind. Set in Jamaica, heavy on patois, I felt immersed in the inner world of these two unforgettable characters.”
—Rebecca Fitting (co-owner, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY)

A Tall History of Sugar is captivating from the very first page. Mythic in dimension yet movingly human in its details, alive with atmospheric richness, it heralds a fascinating new voice in English-language fiction.”
—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Manhattan Beach

“Curdella Forbes gives us Moshe and Arrienne, two mesmerizing and unforgettable characters who travel through this wonderful novel in the most unpredictable directions. Through them, a tall history is told of a relationship that no reader will ever forget.”
—Terry McMillan, author of Waiting to Exhale

“From the opening lines of her brilliantly revelatory A Tall History of Sugar, Curdella Forbes convinces us that it is yet possible to transform English into a language of seductive power, surprise, and fresh truth. She tells a compelling archetypal love story of human complexity that is rooted in an acute sense of the history of Jamaica, and one that speaks with such ease and beauty that the language seems wholly new and splendidly accessible. Curdella Forbes has achieved something resonant and remarkable in this delightful novel.”
Kwame Dawes, author of City of Bones

“Curdella Forbes has proven herself to be a lineage holder in the tradition of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. A Tall History of Sugar is a wise and sagacious story about the one thing that matters most of all in the universe: love. Forbes has a deep understanding and compassion for her characters and a keen knowledge of the world they inhabit. It is an important book, no doubt.”
—Michael Imperioli, author of The Perfume Burned His Eyes


Description

A Tall History of Sugar tells the story of Moshe Fisher, a man who was “born without skin,” so that no one is able to tell what race he belongs to; and Arrienne Christie, his quixotic soul mate who makes it her duty in life to protect Moshe from the social and emotional consequences of his strange appearance.

The narrative begins with Moshe’s birth in the late 1950s, four years before Jamaica’s independence from colonial rule, and ends in the era of what Forbes calls “the fall of empire,” the era of Brexit and Donald Trump. The historical trajectory layers but never overwhelms the scintillating love story as the pair fight to establish their own view of loving, against the moral force of the colonial “plantation” and its legacies that continue to affect their lives and the lives of those around them.

Written in lyrical, luminous prose that spans the range of Jamaican Englishes, this remarkable story follows the couple’s mysterious love affair from childhood to adulthood, from the haunted environs of rural Jamaica to the city of Kingston, and then to England—another haunted locale in Forbes’s rendition.

Following on the footsteps of Marlon James’s debut novel, John Crow’s Devil, which Akashic Books published in 2005, we are delighted to introduce another lion of Jamaican literature with the publication of A Tall History of Sugar.

Read a Q&A with Curdella Forbes at Publishers Weekly.

Read an interview with Curdella Forbes at The Rumpus.


Book Details

  • Hardcover: 372 pages
  • Published: 10/1/19
  • IBSN: 9781617757518
  • e-IBSN: 9781617757815

Author

CURDELLA FORBES is a Jamaican writer who lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, and teaches at Howard University. A Tall History of Sugar is her latest novel.

Author Events

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