Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Cindy Seip

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a fiction writer, poet, essayist, and the author of five prose collections, including The Age of Phillis, longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award. She contributed to The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward, and her work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, and other literary publications. W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of the “problem” of race in America and of “double consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American must possess and hone to survive. In The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Novel (Harper), Jeffers introduces readers to Ailey Pearl Garfield, who has understood Du Bois’ words all too well since childhood. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans – the choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great-grandmother Pearl, a descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers – Ailey carries Du Bois’ words on her shoulders. Embarking on a journey through her family’s past to come to terms with her identity, Ailey must learn to embrace her entire heritage. It is a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience. That is the story, and the song, of America itself. Booklist called it an “audacious, mellifluous love song to an African American family … Jeffers’ lyrical cadences shimmer … Not to be missed.”