"Kia Corthron’s first novel is a stunning achievement by any measure—a riveting saga of two twentieth-century American families trapped inside the quotidian contradictions and compulsions of race, disability, and sexuality. The untidiness of history is conveyed through experiences, dreams, and inevitable eruptions of violence, yet also unexpected patterns of escape and possible orbits of justice." —Angela Y. Davis, UC Santa Cruz
"Big, ambitious, challenging ... It tells the 20th-century history of the United States through the intersecting lives of two white brothers and two black brothers. It is, by turns, tender, brutal and redemptive." -Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Sympathizer in a Q&A in the New York Times Book Review
"There are whole chunks of writing here that are simply sublime, places in which one gets swept away by the way she subverts the rhythm of language to illuminate the familiar and allow it to be seen fresh. ... [Corthron] blindsides you. She sneaks up from behind. Sometimes, it is with moments of humor, but more often with moments of raw emotional power -- moments whose pathos feels hard-earned and true.... [The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter] succeeds admirably in a novel's first and most difficult task: It makes you give a damn. It also does well by a novel's second task: It sends you away pondering what it has to say."-Leonard Fitts Jr., The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
Winner of the Center for Fiction's 2016 First Novel Prize
The hotly anticipated first novel by lauded playwright and The Wire TV writer Kia Corthron, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter sweeps American history from 1941 to the twenty-first century through the lives of four men--two white brothers from rural Alabama, and two black brothers from small-town Maryland--whose journey culminates in an explosive and devastating encounter between the two families.
On the eve of America's entry into World War II, in a tiny Alabama town, two brothers come of age in the shadow of the local chapter of the Klan, where Randall--a brilliant eighth-grader and the son of a sawmill worker--begins teaching sign language to his eighteen-year-old deaf and uneducated brother B.J. Simultaneously, in small-town Maryland, the sons of a Pullman Porter--gifted six-year-old Eliot and his artistic twelve-year-old brother Dwight--grow up navigating a world expanded both by a visit from civil and labor rights activist A. Philip Randolph and by the legacy of a lynched great-aunt.
The four mature into men, directly confronting the fierce resistance to the early civil rights movement, and are all ultimately uprooted. Corthron's ear for dialogue, honed from years of theater work, brings to life all the major concerns and movements of America's past century through the organic growth of her marginalized characters, and embraces a quiet beauty in their everyday existences.
Sharing a cultural and literary heritage with the work of Toni Morrison, Alex Haley, and Edward P. Jones, Kia Corthron's The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter is a monumental epic deftly bridging the political and the poetic, and wrought by one of America's most recently recognized treasures.