Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Promise: A Novel, with Jacqueline Woodson
Two Black sisters growing up in small-town New England fight to protect their home, their bodies, and their dreams as the Civil Rights Movement sweeps the nation in Promise, a “magical, magnificent novel” (Marlon James). The Library joins the Harlem Arts Salon in presenting this special event with National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson. Light refreshments will be served.
The people of Salt Point could indeed be fearful about the world beyond themselves; most of them would be born and die without ever having gone more than twenty or thirty miles from houses that were crammed with generations of their families. . . . But something was shifting at the end of summer 1957.
The Kindred sisters—Ezra and Cinthy—have grown up with an abundance of love. Love from their parents, who let them believe that the stories they tell on stars can come true. Love from their neighbors, the Junketts, the only other Black family in town, whose home is filled with spice-rubbed ribs and ground-shaking hugs. And love for their adopted hometown of Salt Point, a beautiful Maine village perched high up on coastal bluffs.
But as the girls hit adolescence, their white neighbors, including Ezra’s best friend, Ruby, start to see their maturing bodies and minds in a different way. And as the news from distant parts of the country fills with calls for freedom, equality, and justice for Black Americans, the white villagers of Salt Point begin to view the Kindreds and the Junketts as threats to their way of life. Amid escalating violence, prejudice, and fear, bold Ezra and watchful Cinthy must reach deep inside the wells of love they’ve built to commit great acts of heroism and grace on the path to survival.
In luminous, richly descriptive writing, Promise celebrates one family’s story of resistance. It’s a book that will break your heart—and then rebuild it with courage, hope, and love.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is an artist, poet, and novelist. Her collection Seeing the Body was selected as the winner of the 2021 Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award in Poetry, the winner of the 2021 Paterson Poetry Prize, and a finalist for the 2021 NAACP Image Award. Griffiths' visual and literary work has appeared widely, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, the Paris Review, Best American Poetry (2021, 2022), The Georgia Review, Guernica, Tin House, Los Angeles Review of Books, and many others. Her collections of poetry include Miracle Arrythmia, The Requited Distance, Mule & Pear, and Lighting the Shadow. Author photo by Beowulf Sheehan
Jacqueline Woodson is the author of more than thirty books for young people and adults including Another Brooklyn, Red At The Bone and The Day You Begin. She received a 2023 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a 2023 E. B. White Award, a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award, and was the 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Her New York Times bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, and the NAACP Image Award. Her books for young readers include Coretta Scott King Award and NAACP Image Award winner Before the Ever After, New York Times bestsellers The Day You Begin and Harbor Me, Newbery Honor winners Feathers, Show Way, and After Tupac and D Foster, and Each Kindness. In 2018, she founded BALDWIN FOR THE ARTS, a residency serving writers, composers, interdisciplinary, and visual artists of the Global Majority. Learn more at jacquelinewoodson.com. Author photo from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
This event is part of the Library’s Black Literature Matters programming, generously supported by the Oak Foundation.
The Library is proud to present this event in cooperation with the Harlem Arts Salon, which supports the Gloster Arts Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has been providing a free summer multidisciplinary arts camp for creative children living in rural Southwest Mississippi or wherever they are online. Learn more about the Gloster Arts Project here.