Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

Catalog » Browse by Title: T » A Tall History of Sugar

A Tall History of Sugar


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

Buy on Bookshop
Buy on Amazon
Buy on Barnes & Noble

$18.95 $14.21

What people are saying…

WINNER of the 2020 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction!

A Tall History of Sugar is a gift for grown-up fans of fairy tales and those who love fiction that metes out hard and surprising truths. Forbes’s writing combines the gale-force imagination of Margaret Atwood with the lyrical pointillism of Toni Morrison.”
New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

“Forbes provides an eclectic, feverish vision of Jamaican ‘history’ from the 1950s to the present glimpsed through the experiences of an abandoned mystic-child named Moshe, whose translucent skin and mismatched eyes defy racial category. Who he is and who he becomes—like the country itself—is a riddle that unfolds in episodic bursts and linguistic flourishes.”
Vanity Fair, one of the Best Books of 2019

“A mesmerizing love story that takes place over 50 years in Jamaica.”
O, the Oprah Magazine

“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

“[A]n 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.”

“A meditation on colonial legacy.”
Travel + Leisure

“Haunting, intriguing, and absorbing . . . A memorable read.”
New West Indian Guide

“Forbes’s ambitious, fantastic tale will appeal to fans of multigenerational sagas.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred review

“Forbes’ skillful and instinctual use of local languages and dialects further taps into a rich Jamaican oral culture, in a story that dreams of being read aloud.”
The Irish Times

“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

“Forbes’s fairy-tale (anti)romance interrogates what it means to love across time and space, through and despite language . . . Tall History is a folk interpretation of real, larger-than-life History, an interpretation by which we mean to survive that history.”
SX Salon

“A fascinating post-colonial blend of romance, social history, and myth.”
Booklist, Starred review

“A Jamaican fairy tale set in 1958, A Tall History of Sugar is a love story between an odd, intriguing child, Moshe, and his soul mate Arrienne, whom he meets on the first day of school. Where Moshe is laconic and excels in the realm of the visual, Arrienne acts as both narrator and translator in a story that spans slavery, colonialism, and the aftermath of both.”
The Undefeated, one of the Can’t Miss Books of 2019

“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

“Through Moshe and Arienne’s unconventional love story, Forbes explores the legacy of colonialism: its effects on childhood and its ongoing impact on the Jamaican way of life.”
Electric Lit, recommended by Donna Hemans

“A powerful journey into the souls of two lovers, two countries, and the people caught in the wakes of empires.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred review


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.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Published: 1/4/22
  • IBSN: 9781617759772
  • e-IBSN: 9781617757815
  • Hardcover: 366 pages
  • IBSN: 9781617757518


CURDELLA FORBES was born in Jamaica and now lives in Takoma Park, Maryland. She teaches at Howard University. She is the author of A Tall History of Sugar.

More info »