Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

1. First lines. 2. Published 2020 by Harper Collins Publishers; Penguin Random House 3. Portrait of a young woman. [No known copyright restrictions] via flickr 3. Marie Lassus, free woman of color of New Orleans By Louis Rousseau [Public Domain] via Wikimedia

Set in the period before and after the American Civil War, in an small isolated village in the South, this is the story of three women. Rue is the daughter of Miss May Belle, a slave valued as a healing woman, one called for in times of sickness or childbirth. Varina, the same age as Rue, is the daughter of the plantation owner. As Rue and Varina grow up playing together, all the injustices of slavery affect them, and the lives of everyone in the village.

“Miss May Belle had used to turn coin on hoodooing. As a slave woman she’d made her name and her money by crafting curses. More profit to be made in curses than in her work mixing healing tinctures. More praise to be found in revenge than in birthing babies.”

“She had been spellbound, at that small age, by the curious mystery of white faces. She saw so few, save the master and his sons, more rarely his wife. Rue was acquainted with only one white face in particular – Varina, Marse Charles’s red-haired, freckle-spotted daughter.”

~Quotes from “Conjure Women” by Afia Atakora
  • Kirkus: “Life in the immediate aftermath of slavery is powerfully rendered in this impressive first novel.”
  • Publishers Weekly: “Through complex characters and bewitching prose, Atakora offers a stirring portrait of the power conferred between the enslaved women. … a powerful tale of moral ambiguity amid inarguable injustice.”

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