Virago is publishing the first novel in two decades from Gayl Jones, Palmares, set in 17th-century colonial Brazil on Portuguese plantations and in the last fugitive slave settlement.
Jones, described as "the best American novelist whose name you may not know", was originally discovered and championed by Toni Morrison. She published several novels in the 1980s and '90s before personal tragedy caused her to close herself off from the world. Her new novel follows her 21-year hiatus from publishing.
Donna Coonan, editorial director at Virago Press, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in Palmares from Sanj Kharbanda at Beacon Press. The deal follows the publication of titles from Jones's backlist by Virago, including Corregidora, Eva’s Man and The Healing.
In Palmares, slated for September 2021, Jones "weaves extraordinary historical events with magical realism, reimagining the historical novel", according to Virago. Set on Portuguese plantations and in the last fugitive slave settlement, the story follows the life of Almeyda, a slave girl with mysterious gifts. As she goes from plantation to plantation, she hears rumours of Palmares, a community where escaped slaves live free.
Coonan said: "Gayl Jones’ novels Corregidora, Eva’s Man and The Healing were published as Virago Modern Classics a couple of years ago, prompting a reappraisal of her work and influence. Like many, I’d hardly dared hope that there would be a new book from this incredible writer, but this sweeping, monumental novel was brewing all along. Palmares has taken Gayl Jones over four decades to release for publication—it’s well worth the wait."
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