Accident of Birth
By Heather Neff
(Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780767917513, 384pp.)
Publication Date: November 9, 2004
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Reba Freeman has loved two men in her life. Her current husband, Carl, has supported her through their twenty-year marriage and given her all the material wealth a suburban wife could hope for. Reba is comfortable, if not necessarily content, in her life with Carl and their blossoming teenage daughter, Marisa, until she learns that her first love and first husband, Joseph Thomas, has been detained by the World Court of Human Rights.
Joseph, a peaceful, gifted Liberian student, had dreams of returning to his native land and educating his people for the betterment of his country. Reba respected his strength and wanted to support his cause, but didn't accompany Joseph to Liberia after graduation due to mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, she must decide if finding out what has happened to her first husband is worth the risk of losing Carl and turning her comfortable world inside out.
Alternating between present-day action and a series of flashbacks, Accident of Birth creates an intricate tapestry of suspense, drama, and romance, while also looking at the moral and cultural differences between African Americans and Africans. Neff boldly exposes the rift between American comforts and the traumas of the world we choose to ignore, creating a moving and memorable story of courage and hope that readers will talk about for a long time.
HEATHER NEFF, Ph.D., is a professor of literatures in the African diaspora at Eastern Michigan University and holds a doctorate from the University of Zurich. She is the author of two previous novels, Blackgammon and Wisdom, which was named an Honor Book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her fourth novel, Haarlem, will be published by Harlem Moon in 2005. She lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
“Not since Marita Golden’s Migrations of the Heart has a writer so deftly played the heartstrings that swing between Africa and African Americans. Heather Neff has written a modern romance with global scope. Bravo.” —Veronica Chambers, author of When Did You Stop Loving Me
“Heather Neff’s Accident of Birth is a convincing romance that explores the still uncharted terrain that lies between black Americans and Liberians, one of the most morally complex relationships of our time. More than a love story, it explores personal identities shaped by different chapters of the black diaspora.”—Neely Tucker, author of Love in the Driest Season
“I’ve been admiring Heather Neff since the publication of her first novel Blackgammon. With Accident of Birth, my admiration has increased.” —Colin Channer, author of Passing Through
“A well-told story with social depth.” —Bertice Berry, Ph.D., author of Redemption Song
More than 150 writers from 40 events will gather in New York City for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28 – May 4, 2014.
For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org