PRAISESONG FOR THE WIDOW
Foreword by Opal Palmer Adisa
Avey Johnson—a Black, middle-aged, middle-class widow given to hats, gloves, and pearls—has long since put behind her the Harlem of her childhood. Then on a cruise to the Caribbean with two friends, inspired by a troubling dream, she senses her life beginning to unravel—and in a panic packs her bag in the middle of the night and abandons her friends at the next port of call. The unexpected and beautiful adventure that follows provides Avey with the links to the culture and history she has so long disavowed. Originally published in 1983, Praisesong for the Widow was a recipient of the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award, and is presented here in a beautiful new hardcover edition as the second title in McSweeney’s Of the Diaspora series.
Praise for Praisesong for the Widow
—Anne Tyler, The New York Times
“A work of exceptional wisdom, maturity, and generosity, one in which the palpable humanity of its characters transcends any considerations of race or sex.”
—The Washington Post
“A strikingly beautiful tale… an eloquent and heart-wrenching portrait.”
—New York Daily News
“There is no limit to the kind of readership to which this novel will appeal.”
“Marshall is one of our finest American novelists.... [Her] stature is due not only to her exploration of significant themes but also to her ability to create complex characters within the context of their culture.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Well-knit and sensitively textured.”
About Of the Diaspora
McSweeney’s Of the Diaspora is a series of previously published works in Black literature whose themes, settings, characterizations, and conflicts evoke an experience, language, imagery and power born of the Middle Passage and the particular aesthetic which connects African-derived peoples to a shared artistic and ancestral past. Tragic Magic, the first novel in the series, was originally published in 1978 and championed by Toni Morrison during her tenure as an editor at Random House. Tragic Magic will be followed by Paule Marshall’s novel of a Harlem widow claiming new life, Praisesong for the Widow (originally published in 1983 and a recipient of the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award). The series is edited by writer Erica Vital-Lazare, a professor of creative writing and Marginalized Voices in literature at the College of Southern Nevada. Published in collectible hardcover editions with original cover art by Sunra Thompson, the first three works hail from Black American voices defined by what Amiri Baraka described as strong feeling “getting into new blues, from the old ones.” Of the Diaspora-North America will be followed by series from the diasporic communities of Europe, the Caribbean and Brazil.