Cover Image: Africaville


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Member Reviews

What I thought was interesting in this book was the location - Nova Scotia - where the story follows three generations of former slaves set free and living in a small town in Halifax. Interesting plot line that outlines the struggles they faced throughout the years. Highly recommend.
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My thanks go to Net Galley and HarperCollins for the review copy; after publication, I used an audio book to finish it, thanks to Seattle Bibliocommons. It's available to the public now. 

There are two reasons I was drawn to this story. The first is the setting, which is primarily in Nova Scotia's Black community. I have never read or heard a story set there, and so I was intrigued. There's also a Civil Rights Movement tie-in, and for me, that sealed the deal. 

The book starts out as a rough read, involving dead babies and "bad luck" babies that weren't dead but needed killing. I was so horrified that I had to restart the book several times to get past it. Now that I have, I can assure you that once you're past the introduction, that's it. The dead babies are done. I'm not sure I would have lead off with this aspect, because I'm probably not the only reader to pick the book up and put it down fast. In fact, had I not owed a review, I would not have returned to it. I’m glad I did. 

The story itself is ambitious, covering three generations of a family there. At the outset we have Kath Ella, who has ambition, but also a mischievous streak. I find this character interesting, but there are times when I don't understand her motivation. The story is told in the third person and not all of her thoughts are shared with us, and so there are times when I'm left scratching my head. When the end of the book arrives, I'm still wondering. 
Kath's son and grandson comprise the second and third parts of the story; apparently the term used back then for passing as Caucasian was called "crowing," and we see some of that. There are too-brief passages involving the Civil Rights Movement against Jim Crow in the Southern U.S., and I am disappointed not to see more about this or have the characters involved more deeply. What I do see of it is the surface information that most readers will already know. 

Toward the end there's a subplot involving getting an elderly relative out of prison, and I like this aspect of it, in particular the dialogue with the old woman.

The setting is resonantly described throughout. 

All told, this is a solid work and a fine debut. I look forward to seeing whatever else Colvin has to offer. As to format, although Miles does a lovely job reading, something of the triptych is necessarily lost when we don’t see the sections unfold. For those that can go either way, I recommend the print version.
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A good historical fiction debut from a new author, tracing the stories of several generations of an African Canadian family in Nova Scotia throughout the 20th century.

Africaville is based on the real-location, Africville, settled near Halifax by former slaves and those loyal to Britain.  It remained a black settlement throughout the years, and Colvin's novel focuses on one family--a grandmother, son, and grandson, as they find their places in Africaville and beyond.

Despite growing up in Canada, this location and people was foreign to me and Colvin does an admirable job piquing interest in the topic, as I've been reading much more non-fiction about Africville to learn more.  I look forward to his subsequent novels.
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The characters never came alive for me and seemed flat. The story seemed choppy.  More of the history of the town would have helped the story. I did not finish so maybe there was more.
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Africaville is a very well-written book that introduces us to generations of family. Settling in Nova Scotia, we meet Kath Etta and her family. The normal hardships of living in that rugged place abound, but with those are the hardships of race. 
Kath Etta has a lot to prove. So, too, do her descendants beginning with her rebellious son. Omar. Through the years Kath Etta's descendants move in the eternal journey to find 'home'. Some succeed some do not. From Canada to the American south they look, generation by generation. So are strong, some are not, just like most families.
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I am not sure why this book lost me, but it did. I was bored and usually this type of story ramps me up. Maybe needed editing? Not sure but... not great. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher!
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I thought the premise of this sounded so interesting - three generations of the Sebolt family are highlighted in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. The Sebolt family and other residents of the town settled there after they were freed from the American South, or were transported from the West Indies. I live in Buffalo, NY so Canada is a stone's throw away, but don't recall learning about this community and wanted to learn more about it.

I thought this was a very solid effort and enjoyed it, but I definitely understand why a lot of people struggled. The change in perspective was sometimes quite jarring and the mostly third person narrative (which luckily didn't bother me), made it challenging at times. I enjoy different writing styles and didn't have much trouble re-gaining my footing with said jarring, but sometimes it's hard to persevere in instances like this.

I enjoyed Kath Ella's perspective the most and found her spirit admirable against so many injustices. Particularly, with regard to her relationship with her best friend Kiendra. There is a lot to relate to here and I think if you have some patience and time, this makes for a treat for any lover of family sagas and historical fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley, Harpercollins Publishers and Jeffrey Colvin for the opportunity to read this book and provide an honest review.

Review Date: 12/11/2019
Publication Date: 12/10/2019
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Debut Novel, Africaville, from Jeffrey Colvin started off a little slow then started moving at the speed of a  tractor hoeing the fields in Halifax. Kath Ella is a young woman at the start of this book interchanging from the past of her family to the future throughout the book compromising her and her son Etienne's generational life. The story can be a little confusing when it jumps ahead into the future and back into the past as there is not a lead up into the next segment of said time frame. However, as much as you need a little change in gears it does not take away from the story itself.  

Life as a child living in a mixed-race family can be a struggle as we learn from Etienne. Africaville delves into the question of being confident enough in yourself that you can deal with other people's hang-ups back in the '50s through the '60s about interracial marriage. Even now, not everyone can be civil when it comes to race and intermarriage and this book gets communication and introspection going. The dilemma to try and be who you want to be, but still, be proud of your heritage can be very hard when you decide you just want to fit in. It would be very hard to decide, especially in the eras setting where you would fit in when you are constantly teased about being white-skinned while living in a black community or being black while living in a white community. I can't fathom it. 

Jeffrey Colvin does a great job of not being preachy when it comes to "crowing" and he doesn't force anything on the reader when it comes to decisions that are made in the story and the hardships that each character encounters. Each struggle is handled as if it is like any other day and that just broke my heart. No one should have to deal with brutality or race-baiting. This story is tragic, and yet provides hope when it is needed. The strength of the women in this book is awe-inspiring. I didn't want the story to end.

I appreciate being able to read this book. Thank you Netgalley, Harper Collins Publishing and Jeffrey Colvin for the opportunity. This is my honest review.
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At first I wasn't too sure about the structure of this book because it felt fragmented and jumbled, but as the narrative went on I realized it was a deliberate choice that reflects the fragmented and jumbled experience of people living the reality of a diaspora.  We see four generations of a family make mistakes, fall in love, and cycle towards and away from each other over the course of their lifetimes. I would recommend this book to readers of Ayana Mathis and Colson Whitehead.
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On the bluffs of Halifax, Nova Scotia a group of freed slaves made a settlement for themselves in the late 1800's, eventually dubbed Africaville.  Since then, the community grew; although they remained on the outskirts of town.  In 1933, Kath Ella Sebolt is looking for a way out.  A scholarship to a a college in Montreal is her ticket, however trouble with her best friend Kiendra and a pregnancy with Omar Platt's child could complicate matters.  Kath Ella wants more for her son, Etienne than she had.  Etienne does well for himself, but often struggles with the fact that he is what people would consider 'colored.'  Etienne's son Warner, now in Alabama is surprised to learn who his grandparents were and finds himself tied back to the small community in Nova Scotia. 
Africaville is a family saga that captures to trials of four generations of a family in North America.  I was very interested in the community and it's foundations in Canada.  Picking up in the 1930's with Kath Ella, the story was able to depict the many different ways that racism was able to encroach on the residents of Africaville, from limited opportunities for education and jobs to violent retaliation.  For Kath Ella's son and grandson, the focus turns more on identity.  Colvin was able to capture the complex emotional turmoil of two men coming to terms with who they are.  One of the most interesting characters in the story for me was Zera, Omar's mother.  Zera was jailed for a protest and made the difficult decision to send her son to relatives in Africaville.  In a way, it is her legacy that pulls the other three generations together.  I would have loved to know more of her story and the events that led up to her arrest.   I would have also appreciated more information on the families that founded the town on the bluffs and how they came to settle there.  Overall, a sweeping family story of a group of people that history has forgotten.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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A huge thank you to Amistad, an extension of HarperCollins Publishing and Netgalley for giving me an advanced copy of this book! Africavillle is the debut novel by Jeffrey Colvin, set to release next Tues, Dec 10th! If you like historical fiction that deals with lesser known aspects of history or are looking to read outside the white, colonial narrative, this would be a great one to pick up. 

Africaville tells the multigenerational story of the Sebolt family and how time and location play pivotal role in how they each view their racial identity and how it impacts their relationships to one another. This story begins in the early 1900s in a small Nova Scotia town that was originally settled by former slaves who came from Sierra Leone, and later the Caribbean. From here, the story moves forward through the American South of the 60s, 80s and 90s. The major thematic elements in this novel consistently juxtapose one another in a way that implies each character feels a degree of Black dysphoria. We see opposing themes of: abandoning/returning to your roots, which town you "belong to," and how it gives you/detracts from your social standing, your ability to "pass" as either white or black and what that means for the relationship you have with your family/yourself, and how you accept/choose to ignore your origin story. There are likely other elements in this book that fall within the Black literature tradition that I am unaware of because this is outside of my own racial experience. 

The writing in this one is a healthy combination of introspection with external action that propel each character’s story forward at a meaningful pace. We see snippets of each character's lives and how these pieces of their history relate to the larger themes mentioned as well as to the generations that come after them. The apex of each character’s story occurs at different stages in their lives, and other significant moments (decline of health, death, birth of children, grandchildren, etc.) are mentioned in poignant ways that draw an adequate conclusion to their story. Nothing is handled with melodrama, and there are some reading in between the lines in terms of what is said, what is intended, and what is left unsaid.

This novel expresses life for what it is given the time and place each of their character's stories unfold. It is a unique experience that tells the history of a group of people that is often largely overlooked. I think it is a story worth sharing, reflecting upon, and celebrating.
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This story is about black and mixed race families who moved to Nova Scotia from Jamaica and the Bahamas and some from the United States.They settled in a area that eventually became known as Africaville.  This saga starts in 1880 and goes to 1998.  They endured heartbreaking situations including losing their homes.  Until reading this I was totally unaware of this conflict in Canada. It was such a interesting read that I have done a little research since and read about the real Africaville.  This book however is not just about Africaville  it is about family and leads us through three generations.  It is a truly unique and fabulous story with characters that are relatable.  I highly recommend  this warm and wonderful book.
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Through a period of very fluid seventy four years, three generations of a mixed race family make sense of the social changes they endure, as they deal with issues of race and community dynamics, first in the suburbs of Halifax, Nova Scotia, then Montreal, Vermont, Southern United States, and back.

Africaville is the dullest and most uninspired book I have read this year. It took every ounce of my will power to finish it, but I do not fault this novel as much as it comes in the shadow of some of the best books of the year—according to critics and readers alike—some of which I have been privileged to read. The comparisons to mighty literary works in the same vein is, I feel, vastly misplaced.

Disclaimer: the publisher has provided an advanced reader copy in electronic format via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Thank you publisher and Netgalley for this book to review. I’ve attempted several times to get into this book  but I struggled again and again. I couldn’t get into this book. I’m sorry.!  It had nothing to do with the content. I believe it was the authors writing style that I had a hard time with.
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Exploring racial identity, passing, interracial relationships and the meaning of home Africaville was a treat to read. In this novel we journey three generations of an African Canadian family from 1918 – current day. When I looked up Africaville, the information I found was fascinating. There is so much history we just don’t know about. Colvin writing is vivid, and his characters are unforgettable. This book is a must read. 4/5 stars

Thank you, Netgalley & Amistad for gifting me this copy. I am forever grateful.
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A moving, fictional family saga that places a spotlight on the Black Canadian experience. Often overlooked, or completely unknown by the average American, the very real Africville was founded by Black Nova Scotians, a group comprised of escaped slaves from the United States or the Caribbean , or subjects of the British Crown who received freedom after the American Revolution, who created a created a community in Halifax.  

Jeffrey Colvin revives this chapter of Canadian history through multiple generations of the Sebolt family, originally from Jamaica, whose experiences of racism and tragedy (including the Halifax explosion) represent the whole of the now razed community. A must-read for the historical reader.
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Fascinating account of the settling of Halifax by former slaves.  A part of history many are unlikely to know about, so in that regard, well worth the awareness.  The storyline follows generations of intertwined families, while raising questions about Blackness, identity, and family ties. Despite its importance of story and history, the narrative comes across as choppy and rather shallow.  Generational deaths occur with the regularity of the chapters, with a reader left wondering what's the threadline of continuity?  I enjoyed the book, but would have liked more depth of narrative and storytelling.  The characters are worth the investment.
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Quite honestly, this didn’t hold my interest and I didn’t finish it. It’s an intriguing premise and I might give it a try another time, in case I wasn’t in the right headspace for it.
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This family saga originates in a little known black community in Nova Scotia called Africaville.  Former slaves from Jamaica were transported there where they learned French, farmed and dug in to create a unique town out of a very inhospitable landscape.  This is the chronicle of the Sebolt family, three generations from the late 1800s through the tumultuous 1960s in Alabama and Mississippi to the end of the century. Culture and race relations play important roles in this story but it is really about family and finding your way through your family history.  This debut is quietly told but with great purpose.  The story and characters dig away at you with a slow burn of smoldering coals but there is always the tension in the background that warns of a blazing fire.  Readers who enjoy books that outline black history or family sagas will find this community and its history fascinating. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Several generations of a mixed race family struggle with their identities as they go through life trying to decide if their race matters.  To some, it is tantamount to claim their heritage, and to others it is best hidden and to pass as white.

The story was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.  I feel anyone could relate to the characters.
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