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The death of a Jamaican man’s father raises questions about the father’s political endeavors, and about the plight of 1980s Jamaica.

$15.95 $11.96

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What people are saying…

Kwame Dawes has been named a 2019 Windham-Campbell Prize Recipient in poetry!

“Few other novels encapsulate Jamaica’s political upheavals so well. Protagonist Ferron Morgan agonizes over his father’s death, maybe from a doctor’s mistake, maybe from a radical rival’s hands. Meanwhile, he’s running from everything, including his own emotions about his fiancée—with sad results. Bivouac is not an easy or light book, but the immediacy Dawes creates is worth it.”
Literary Hub, included in 5 Books You May Have Missed in April

“With expressive description and languid cadence, Dawes deftly constructs a background that serves as an amorphous setting for the complicated experience of a grieving son . . . With subtle yet lyrical description of internal struggles set against a foreign background, Bivouac serves as a deceptively symbolic read about the bleak and mirthless aspects of life and, subsequently, death.”
The Daily Nebraskan

“Better than ever, a dreamlike work about the island in the 1980s.”
New West Indian Guide

“An examination of grief and politics in a deftly written novel set in 1980s Jamaica . . . Astonishing prose.”
Kirkus Reviews

“With . . . dreamlike sequences, this is best suited for readers who enjoy character studies as well as lovers of Jamaican fiction.”

“A deftly crafted and absolutely riveting read.”
Midwest Book Review

Bivouac has that kind of rich and luxurious writing that makes you believe there is a purpose to every element of the story.”
Tonstant Weader Reviews

“Dawes examines the complicated terrain of grief with uncanny insight and spare, lucid prose. What unfolds is a story about a man, a family, and a country searching for answers and new hope.”
—Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze

Bivouac speaks in tongues so that the reader hears both the market and the courtroom, the orchestra of ancestral voices and the tone of individual conscience. Kwame Dawes’s novel laughs and mourns, claps hands for the inventive communal spirit, and wrings those same hands as a result of political malfeasance.”
—Fred D’Aguiar, author of Feeding the Ghosts

“Kwame Dawes brings the beauty and subtle rhythms of his poetic voice to this moving, dreamlike novel where the past intercedes on the present. A deep pleasure to read and savor.”
—Bernardine Evaristo, author of Mr. Loverman

“Dawes’s novel is a poetic patchwork of waiting, of sliding into the past, casting into the future, but mostly of slow, sensorial limbo in the present . . . Dawes exercises significant stylistic restraint . . . so that his flourishes appear like musical interludes, culminating in a final explosion of style and imagination that overwhelms the initial questions the story raises.”
Maple Tree Literary Supplement

Bivouac is Kwame Dawes’s dark novel about death, politics, family, and sex in a Jamaica that has a ‘scarcely understood sense of temporariness and dislocation,’ with dialogue that puts you right onto the streets of Kingston.”
New West Indian Guide


When Ferron Morgan’s father dies in suspicious circumstances, his trauma is exacerbated by the conflict within his family and among his father’s friends over whether the death was the result of medical negligence or if it was a political assassination. Ferron grew up in awe of his father’s radical political endeavors, but in later years he watched as the resurgence of the political right in the Caribbean in the 1980s robbed the man of his faith.

Ferron’s response to the death is further complicated by guilt, particularly over his failure to protect his fiancée from a brutal assault. He begins to investigate the direction of his life with great intensity, in particular his instinct to keep moving on and running from trouble.

This is a sharply focused portrayal of Jamaica at a tipping point in its recent past, in which the private grief and trauma condenses a whole society’s scarcely understood sense of temporariness and dislocation.

Congratulations to Kwame Dawes, who has been named Honorary Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature

Listen to an interview with Kwame Dawes at All About Books.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Published: 4/2/19
  • IBSN: 9781617757105
  • e-IBSN: 9781617757204


Kwame Dawes is the Ghana-born, award-winning author of twenty-two books of poetry—including Sturge Town from Norton—and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. He has won Pushcart Prizes, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Emmy, and was the 2019 awardee of the Windham-Campbell Prize in Poetry. He is series editor of the African Poetry Book Series—the latest of which is Kumi: New-Generation African Poets, A Chapbook Box Set. He currently teaches at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

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