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A Tall History of Sugar
Cover of A Tall History of Sugar
A Tall History of Sugar
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"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

"An 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."
BuzzFeed, included in BuzzFeed's Fall 2019 Preview

"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

"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

"History is ever present in the novel, both as a metaphor and metonym, with Jamaica being the frame in which such a story as Moshe's and Arienne's could have happened if it had been true. The novel is historically accurate. A Tall History of Sugar is both a love story, and a story about the lasting legacy of slavery and the impact of the colonial system on Jamaica."
The Rumpus

"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 Undefeated's Can't Miss Books of 2019

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...

"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

"An 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."
BuzzFeed, included in BuzzFeed's Fall 2019 Preview

"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

"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

"History is ever present in the novel, both as a metaphor and metonym, with Jamaica being the frame in which such a story as Moshe's and Arienne's could have happened if it had been true. The novel is historically accurate. A Tall History of Sugar is both a love story, and a story about the lasting legacy of slavery and the impact of the colonial system on Jamaica."
The Rumpus

"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 Undefeated's Can't Miss Books of 2019

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...

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About the Author-
  • Curdella Forbes is a Jamaican writer who lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, and teaches at Howard University.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 17, 2019
    In her immersive modern fairy tale, Forbes (A Permanent Freedom) unspools an unlikely love story as well as a haunting, hypnotic piece of postcolonial Jamaican history. A strange newborn baby is found in a basket in 1958 and adopted. Ghostly pale and fragile, with hair that is part blond, part black, Moshe Fisher is deemed an outsider by his peers until, on his first day of elementary school, he meets Arrienne Christie, a slightly older girl who shares his intellectual aptitude and aversion to speech. Arrienne is also the novel’s narrator, interjecting and opining with verve as she and Moshe come of age—she a burgeoning political mind, he a talented visual artist. Their slow-burning love story is tested when Moshe’s desire to learn more about his biological father takes him to Britain. Arrienne’s recount moves in hopscotch fashion, but it’s driven forward by her enchanting voice, to which Forbes brings an electric lyricism. Her dialogue beautifully captures the lilt and variety of Jamaican patois: “If yu lef outa dis house tonight, don’t come back, stay by yu fadda.” Forbes’s ambitious, fantastic tale will appeal to fans of multigenerational sagas
    .

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2019
    A tale of love and struggle that crosses decades and continents. This is Forbes' (Ghosts, 2014, etc.) fifth work of fiction, and she writes with the confidence and poetic nerve of a seasoned veteran. In 1958, four years before Jamaica's independence from Britain, a woman named Rachel finds an abandoned baby in a wicker basket. She names him Moshe, or Moses, and raises him as her own. Moshe was born with skin that had not yet fully developed. He's neither black nor white. He's bluish, with his veins visible beneath his thin, translucent skin. One eye is blue and the other is brown, and the hair on the front of his head is bleach blond while the hair on the back is black. Moshe's appearance marks him: "The child seemed to represent some kind of perverse alchemy that had taken place in the deep earth, between tectonic plates, where he was fashioned. People said the boy just looked like sin. Big sin at work when he was made." As a child, Moshe's only friend is Arrienne, who in many ways is all that Moshe is not. She is loud, assertive, strong, and, in later years, becomes a political activist. He is solitary, insecure, and quietly artistic. Yet the love between them stretches across decades and follows Moshe as he leaves Jamaica and finds fame as an artist in England. Forbes lets her novel sing with all the languages of Jamaica and Britain. She has an uncanny knack for patois and dialect, including Jamaican English, the Queen's English, and everything in between. In some ways this book tells a story of a love too deep to become romantic. In other ways it's a novel of colonialism and its tragic aftermath of racism and economic despair. But most of all, the book is a journey. The characters so vivid, their depictions so intimate, that the skin of the pages themselves almost pulse beneath the reader's fingers. A powerful journey into the souls of two lovers, two countries, and the people caught in the wakes of empires.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Michael Imperioli, author of The Perfume Burned His Eyes

    "Curdella Forbes has proven herself to be a lineage holder in the tradition of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. A Tall History of Sugar is a wise and sagacious story about the one thing that matters most of all in the universe: love. Forbes has a deep understanding and compassion for her characters and a keen knowledge of the world they inhabit. It is an important book, no doubt."

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    Akashic Books
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