Winner, 2020 National Association of Black Journalists Outstanding Literary Award; Overall Winner, 2020 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Award; Winner, 2021 IPPY Gold Medal for Urban Fiction; Finalist for the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards
Featured on Ms. Magazine's June 2020 Reads for the Rest of Us and Bustle's 23 Debut Books That Are Too Good To Ignore.
It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place. Sydney Stallworth steps away from her fellowship and law studies at an elite university to support husband Malachi's dream of opening a business in the heart of the black community of his hometown, Bellport.
For Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal, Bellport is where he will establish his drumming career and the launching pad from which he will spread African culture across the world, while trying to hold onto his marriage. Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary in Bellport for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to nightmares and outbursts.
Tensions rise as the demolition date moves closer, plans for gentrification are laid out, and the pace of suspicious fires picks up. The residents find themselves at odds with a political system manipulating their lives and question the future of their relationships.
The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging. Examining the profound impact gentrification has on people in many neighborhoods, and the way in which being uprooted affects the fabric of their families, friendships, and emotional well-being, the novel not only focuses on the immigrant experience, but the way in which the immigrant/African American neighborhood interface leads to friction and tension. This book thus provides a springboard to important discussions on race and class differences, on the treatment of immigrants, as well as the government's relationship and responsibility to society.
"A book that is sensual, fraught, and above all, human."
-The Boston Globe
"This debut takes on the topic of gentrification of African American and immigrant neighborhoods...Themes of race, class and culture are skilfully woven throughout."
"An absorbing historical novel about the importance of community in shaping who you are and what you can accomplish."
"Brimming with vitality."
-Willl Medearis, author of Restoration Heights
"A novel about who you love and who becomes your home. A moving and skillful debut."
-Stephanie Powell Watts, author of No One Is Coming to Save Us
"Filled with big ideas...a thorough insight into intra-racial relations of the time."