Song of Slaves in the Desert

ISBN: 9781402242991

By: Alan Cheuse

Published: 03/15/2011

The Legacy of Slavery
The Loyalty of Family
The Lure of Love

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The Legacy of Slavery The Loyalty of Family The Lure of Love He has no history in the rice fields, no background in being a master. Plantations are as foreign to him as the African plain that birthed the slaves his uncle owns. Surely, though, he knows his own heart. She has no say in his decisions, his day, his life. She doesn’t even have a say in her own. But when Nathaniel Pereira plunges into the murky mysteries of freedom and survival in the suffocating Southern heat, Liza can see how she might change her life forever. Tracing the thread of slavery from sixteenth-century Timbuktu, Song of Slaves in the Desert explores one man’s struggle to understand a world where honor is in short supply yet dignity cannot be sold. His mission in peril, his mind nearly undone, Nathaniel’s obsession binds him to his fate more tightly than chains ever could. “Cheuse shows that in one way or another, we all experience slavery, and that freedom is never given but must be taken at all cost. The book’s epic vision is deeply human and humane.” Helon Habila, author of Waiting for an Angel and Measuring Time “Alan Cheuse, one of our most respected men of letters, has written a daring, provocative novel. Some readers will be captivated by his depiction of the horrors of slavery and Jewish involvement in the peculiar institution, and others will be troubled and perhaps even offended, for the subject of race in America is always controversial, but no one who reads Song of Slaves in the Desert will emerge from its pages unaffected.” Charles Johnson, author of the National Book Award winner Middle Passage “A novelist’s dream is to conjure up a whole world, one the reader can tumble right into and inhabit. I fell into Alan Cheuse’s Song of Slaves in the Desert like that. I confess I felt a twinge of envy at Cheuse’s success, his fully imagined song and its people. But the envy immediately gave way to gratitude for having had the chance to enter and treasure the world he's made here.” Josephine Humphreys, author of Dreams of Sleep “Cheuse passionately evokes a vanished world of master and slave, Jew and Gentile, all hurtling toward the tumult and destruction of war. The novel is full of the loss and longing that come with a world divided forever, people from their people and from their past. Fascinating.” Lynn Freed, author of The Servants’ Quarters A masterful writer skilled in both accuracy and nuance, Alan Cheuse grapples with the nether parts of our history, the murky boundary between right and wrong, and the wild tendency of love to break free. For more than two decades, Alan Cheuse has served as NPR’s “voice of books.” He is the author of four novels, including The Grandmothers’ Club, The Light Possessed, and To Catch the Lightning (winner of the 2009 Grub Street National Prize for fiction), several collections of short stories, and a pair of novellas. He is also the editor of Seeing Ourselves: Great Early American Short Stories and coeditor of Writers Workshop in a Book.

About the Author

Alan Cheuse

For more than two decades, Alan Cheuse has served as NPR’s ‘voice of books.’ He is the author of three novels, including The Grandmothers’ Club and The Light Possessed, several collections of short stories, and a pair of novellas recently published in The Fires. He is also the editor of Seeing Ourselves: Great Early American Short Stories and co-editor of Writers Workshop in a Book.



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““‘Song of Slaves in the Desert’ is a Great American Novel in the most profound and important sense — a novel about the human experience of slavery in the American South… it is the work of a master storyteller.” —Jonathan Kirsch, The Jewish Journal” - The Jewish Journal

““Alan Cheuse, in ‘Song of Slaves in the Desert,’ uses language that is often spare and beautiful… Cheuse raises interesting questions about Jewishness and slavery and family and loyalty, and the ability of some men to justify not only their greed but also their baser instincts… [he] also deftly immerses us into the daily life of this plantation with wonderful details about rice farming and abortion and child bearing and slave trading and hunting, evoking the natural world, the heat and Southern heaviness with telling precision. And as Nate’s and Liza’s story unfolds, ‘Song’ builds to an urgency and wildness reminiscent of Faulkner’s Compson novels… in the end his unflinching look at the vile consequences that resonate for generations from human slavery make ‘Song’ a novel to be savored, and remembered.”-Boston Globe” - Boston Globe

““This is a brilliantly imagined story that will take the reader on a fascinating, meandering journey that leads to a confluence of two families from different cultures and religions, both experiencing bondage, determined to be free. Songs of Slaves in the Desert is an intoxicating piece of literature destined to achieve well-deserved acclaim.” -Historical Novels Review ” - Historical Novels Review

“An imaginative, multigenerational exploration of the world of Southern slavery...A complex, richly detailed story. ” - Kirkus

“The tangled history of slavery and the enduring stain it left upon a nation founded on the principles of freedom and equality is evocatively illuminated.” - Booklist

I was pulled right in and put the book down only to sleep. Despite being five hundred pages long, SONG is so beautifully and clearly written that I lost myself to the book and finished reading it in twenty-four hours.


Format: Hardcover

Length: 9 in
Width: 6 in
Weight: 29.60 oz
Page Count: 528 pages


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