Debut Novel from Antiguan Writer Weaves History and Culture from the Diaspora
(New York, NY)— Marie-Elena John wasn’t considering a writing career when she left her Caribbean island for New York’s City College. There, thanks to a semester spent at the University of Nigeria, she became fascinated by the intertwined cultural commonality of the Continent, the Caribbean, and the African-American experiences. This fascination became the basis for her debut novel, Unburnable a multi-generational narrative of family, betrayal, and vengeance, publishing in April 2006 by Amistad/Harpercollins.
Provocative and set partly in post World War II Dominica and contemporary Washington, D.C., Unburnable entails a brutal rape with a broken shard of a Coke bottle, and a suspenseful murder mystery.
From a Washington, D.C. base throughout the 1990s, Marie Elena-John worked with non-profit organizations, traveling throughout Africa, first in support of grassroots development efforts, later working with pro-democracy and human rights movements, and eventually becoming best known in her field for her pioneering work on the denial of women’s inheritance rights in Africa.
Recently though, she channeled her vast knowledge of and passion for the African Diaspora into her literary debut, that Booklist hailed as a “page-turner.” Lillian Baptiste is willed back to her island home of Dominica to finally settle her past. Haunted by scandal and secrets, Lillian left Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival: Matilda Swinging and Bottle of Coke; songs about a village on a mountaintop and bones and bodies; songs about flying masquerades and a man who dropped dead. Lillian knew the songs well. And now she knows these songs — and thus the history — belong to her. After twenty years away, Lillian returns to face the demons of her past, and with the help of Teddy, the man she refused to love, she will find a way to heal.
Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities from a rising voice in Caribbean fiction. Marie-Elena John divides her time between Washington D.C. and Antigua with her husband and two children.
[Amistad/Harpercollins; ISBN: 0060837578; 04/11/2006; Hardcover]
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