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Creatures of Passage

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With echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Yejidé’s novel explores a forgotten quadrant of Washington, DC, and the ghosts that haunt it.

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What people are saying…

Longlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction!

“Yejidé’s writing captures both real news and spiritual truths with the deftness and capacious imagination of her writing foremothers: Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and N.K. Jemisin . . . Creatures of Passage is that rare novel that dispenses ancestral wisdom and literary virtuosity in equal measure.”
Washington Post

Shortlisted for the 2021 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence!

One of NPR’s Best Books of 2021!

One of the Washington Post‘s 50 Notable Fiction Books of 2021!

“The novel is worthy of every Toni Morrison comparison it receives, effortlessly blending the brutalities of D.C.’s history with the mythical and supernatural. Creatures of Passage is a lyrical journey that will stick with you.”
NPR, a Books We Love selection for 2021

“What do some of this year’s must-reads such as Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé, Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, and The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki have in common? Aside from immediately being added to our Summer reading list, they’ve also just been longlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction.”
Bustle

Creatures of Passage resists comparison. It’s reminiscent of Beloved as well as the Odyssey, but perhaps its most apt progenitor is the genre of epic poems performed by the djelis of West Africa . . . All these otherwise clashing elements become, in this cast, a cohesive whole, telling us that this, too, is America.”
New York Times Book Review

“In its luminous prose, and its nods to mysticism and myth, the novel brings to mind the best of Toni Morrison. It’s that good.”
Washington Post, One of the Best Books about Washington, DC

“Yejidé’s surreal new novel has no shortage of otherworldly surprises, but it’s her this-worldly protagonist who steals the show . . . Informed by a richly woven mythology and propelled by themes of regret and revenge, Creatures of Passage has earned some apt comparisons to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.”
Philadelphia Inquirer, One of the Best Books of Winter 2021

“Yejidé’s novel, set in an authentic East of the River and Northwest DC in the late 1970s, is an artful literary thriller of magical realism with deep respect for the perspectives of her characters. Ghosts, abused children, heroic family members, bigots, and victims align for a memorable conclusion.”
Washington History Magazine

Creatures of Passage defied genre . . . A descriptive masterpiece.”
—Go On Girl! Book Club

An Amazon.com Editors’ Pick, Best Science Fiction/Fantasy

“Written over the course of 17 years, Morowa Yejidé‘s new book, Creatures of Passage, is set in Anacostia in 1977 and follows twins—one living, one dead—who share names with the Egyptian gods Nephthys and Osiris. But that barely hints at the richness and complexity of the book’s many strands.”
Washingtonian

“Hauntingly magical, this sophomore novel by Morowa Yejidé centers a young woman dealing with the loss of her brother, her young great-nephew who mysteriously shows up at her door and Washington, DC, the city that provides an otherworldly backdrop to this imaginative thriller.”
Ms. Magazine, A Most Anticipated Book of 2021

“Morowa Yejidé’s Creatures of Passage gives readers a chance to experience grief and intergenerational trauma in a unique way.”
The Root

“This enthralling, otherworldly story follows Nepthys Kinwell, a taxi driver in Washington, D.C., as she grapples with grief.”
Woman’s World

“[Yejidé] creates a mystical world that includes the realm of Anacostia and the Kingdoms of Virginia and Maryland. Just as her grandmother drove a cab in DC, so does the book’s main character—but with a twist of fantasy as she takes passengers on supernatural journeys.”
Bethesda Magazine

“Comparisons to Toni Morrison’s masterpiece Beloved always perk up our ears, but in the case of Morowa Yejidé’s Creatures of Passage the hype is warranted . . . History-haunted in the best sense, readers shouldn’t miss this mythic thriller.”
Chicago Review of Books, One of 12 Must-Read Books for March 2021

“Set in the 1970s, the book includes elements of magical realism and fantasy, but it paints an all-too-real picture of a divided city.”
Roll Call

Creatures of Passage pays tribute to an unseen southeast DC, a magical, dark, humid space where the dead walk amongst the living and intuition rules the land.”
DC Trending

“This complex fantasy novel mixes mysticism and myth as it follows a taxi driver in 1977 Washington DC who has a haunted car and becomes concerned when she learns her grand-nephew talks to a mysterious man next to the river. An otherworldly tale garnering numerous comparisons to Toni Morrison’s ghost stories.”
Locus Magazine, a New & Notable selection

“Mesmerizing . . . This contemporary fairy tale’s grandeur and psychedelic wonderment undergird a serious warning, urging readers to make sense of the story’s message of family, justice, trauma and healing and to find a way toward a saner future.”
BookPage

“A deeply layered novel of astonishing scope, suffused in the mythical, accented by the magical, but viscerally rooted in elemental human emotions. A deeply satisfying read.”
Bloom

A BookMarks Best-Reviewed Book of the Week (Week of March 15, 2021)

“Toni Morrison comparisons are well-deserved: Creatures of Passage has a deep, powerful connection between the living and dead and the in-between. Ghosts make frequent appearances, and some even have names. Yejidé has a great capacity for imagining different realms of existence. Her imagery is unique and stunning, often providing otherworldly tapestries right alongside the traffic-clogged bridges that cross DC’s rivers.”
Strange Horizons, Review by Maya C. James

“A deeper, broader, and more audacious immersion in magical realism . . . Historic detail and mythic folklore forge a scary, thrilling vision of life along America’s margins.”
Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review

“Skillfully blending fantasy and stark reality while blurring the line between the metaphoric and the tangible, Yejidé successfully tells the story in fits and starts as each major character adds a piece to the puzzle . . . Highly recommended.”
Library Journal, STARRED Review

“Yejidé creates a tapestry of interconnected stories of guilt, loss, love, grief, justice, and restoration . . . Yejidé’s prose is often stunning . . . The story’s rich texture evokes the ghost stories of Toni Morrison.”
Publishers Weekly

“Fatal racism, police violence, pedophilia, family dysfunction—all the horrific ills of contemporary society wreak destruction, but somehow humanity survives.”
Booklist

“A novel written by DC-raised Morowa Yejidé titled Creatures of Passage is a ghost story that also talks about the generational traumas experienced by Black Americans in DC.”
Greater Greater Washington

“Balance squares off with racial politics in Morowa Yejidé’s remarkable novel Creatures of Passage.”
Scene4 Magazine

“Unlike any book I’ve encountered before . . . Read this book.”
A Girl Named Tommi

“In this beautifully written and gloriously conceived novel, Morowa Yejidé reveals her mastery yet again. This book is both contemporary and ancient, frightening and stirring, playful and wise, an unforgettable blurring of reality and genres from its haunted Plymouth automobile to the mysteries in the fog in this alternate America and hidden Washington, DC. With its lyricism and bold imagination, Creatures of Passage is unlike anything you’ve ever read.”
—Tananarive Due, author of Ghost Summer: Stories

“Comparisons will be made to Toni Morrison and they will be well-founded, but Morowa Yejidé is in a class of her own with Creatures of Passage, a mesmerizing tale about love, loss, revenge, death, and restoration that hovers close to the edge of fantasy yet is deeply grounded in history and in a reality easily recognizable in the contemporary world.”
—Elizabeth Nunez, author of Even in Paradise

“Although set in our recent past, Creatures of Passage is at heart a powerful ghost story about people haunted by the shadows of time and the shadows of blood. In the pages of this novel we discover a world that is fully recognizable, as concrete and real as Toni Morrison’s Ohio, but also as fantastic and mythical as Gabriel García Márquez’s Macondo. That said, make no mistake: Morowa Yejidé is a masterful storyteller in her own right, able to spin and sustain an inventive tale illuminated by a singular truth, that death is ‘another form of living.’”
—Jeffery Renard Allen, author of Song of the Shank

One of African Book Addict‘s 2021 Most Anticipated Releases

Critical praise for Time of the Locust by Morowa Yejidé:

“Yejidé is poised to make her mark with a novel that might be described as one of family connection—but encompasses so much more . . . When that father, Horus, develops supernatural abilities and connects with his son, strange and powerful things happen, but the focus is less on fantasy than on the fantastic power of love to bind and protect us.”
Washingtonian

“At times almost mystical in its intensity, Yejidé’s prose brings lyricism to her dark subject matter and unhappy characters, eventually introducing a kind of magical restoration to her shattered fictional family.”
Kirkus Reviews


Description

Nephthys Kinwell is a taxi driver of sorts in Washington, DC, ferrying passengers in a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere with a ghost in the trunk. Endless rides and alcohol help her manage her grief over the death of her twin brother, Osiris, who was murdered and dumped in the Anacostia River. Unknown to Nephthys when the novel opens in 1977, her estranged great-nephew, ten-year-old Dash, is finding himself drawn to the banks of that very same river. It is there that Dash—reeling from having witnessed an act of molestation at his school, but still questioning what and who he saw—has charmed conversations with a mysterious figure he calls the “River Man.”

When Dash arrives unexpectedly at Nephthys’s door bearing a cryptic note about his unusual conversations with the River Man, Nephthys must face what frightens her most.

Morowa Yejidé’s deeply captivating novel shows us an unseen Washington filled with otherworldly landscapes, flawed super-humans, and reluctant ghosts, and brings together a community intent on saving one young boy in order to reclaim itself.

Read a feature on Morowa Yejidé at The Washington Post Magazine.

Read interviews with Morowa Yejidé at Bloom, DCist, the Authors Guild, the Rumpus, the Washingtonian, and at the Writer’s Center.

Read an excerpt from Creatures of Passage at Tor.com.

Listen to interviews with Morowa Yejidé at Chatter on Books and On the Margin


Book Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Published: 7/5/22
  • IBSN: 9781636140285
  • e-IBSN: 9781617758881
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781617758768

Author

MOROWA YEJIDÉ, a native of Washington, DC, is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Time of the Locust, which was a 2012 finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, long-listed for the 2015 PEN/Bingham Prize, and a 2015 NAACP Image Award nominee; and Creatures of Passage, which was short-listed for the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was a 2021 Notable Book selection by NPR and the Washington Post. She lives in the DC area with her husband and three sons.

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