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Nowhere is a Place, Bernice McFadden.

April 1, 2014

Nowhere is a Place, by Bernice L. McFadden.Akashic Books, 2006. Paperback, 310 pages.


A compelling novel about an African American woman traveling cross-country with her mother listening to stories of  their family in slavery and after.

Bernice McFadden writes with power and intensity balanced with tenderness for her characters. In this book she interweaves two narratives. The contemporary one tells the story of Sherry, a bright, educated young woman, given to traveling and exploring as she tries “to find herself.” Although she is alienated from her mother, the two set off on a long car trip to attend a family reunion. Her mother is a pragmatic woman who has always considered Sherry a little strange. Her comments about her daughter are affectionate, if puzzled, and often provide a breath of humor.

As daughter and mother drive cross-country, Sherry listens to her mother’s stories about the family in slavery and in the years after it ended. The suffering in the narratives is broken by the more lighthearted contemporary tales. Sherry writes them down, recreating them as she goes. The result is a moving account of what it meant to be enslaved for a particular family, told with the pain front and center, but somehow mitigated by the beauty of story. What has happened to the family was all too common, but the narratives convey personal emotions, not dry facts. We are forced to see that we are all subject to situations that we cannot control. In slavery and after its end, family members behaved in disturbing ways, hurting outsiders and other family members, and this too is part of their story. And yet the telling of the stories bring healing—to Sherry and her mother and to the larger family.

I strongly recommend Nowhere is a Place to a wide variety of readers, especially those interested in African American history, mother/daughter bonds, and the power of storytelling. I also read and recommend McFadden’s Gathering of the Waters. (See my review.) I will be looking for more of her books.

I am grateful to Akashic Books for sending me this book to review.  Check out their books by women of color.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2014 10:41 am

    I’m glad you posted this. Several people have told me I need to read something by McFadden and I think I finally will. I will also visit the Akashic Books site to see what else they have there.

    • April 5, 2014 6:09 pm

      Good. I am impressed both by McFadden and by Akashic Books.

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