The Fall of Rome (Paperback)

A Novel

By Martha Southgate

Scribner, 9780743227216, 224pp.

Publication Date: January 7, 2003

List Price: 15.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Latin instructor Jerome Washington is a man out of place. The lone African-American teacher at the Chelsea School, an elite all-boys boarding school in Connecticut, he has spent nearly two decades trying not to appear too "racial." So he is unnerved when Rashid Bryson, a promising black inner-city student who is new to the school, seeks Washington as a potential ally against Chelsea's citadel of white privilege. Preferring not to align himself with Bryson, Washington rejects the boy's friendship. Surprised and dismayed by Washington's response, Bryson turns instead to Jana Hansen, a middle-aged white divorcée who is also new to the school -- and who has her own reasons for becoming involved in the lives of both Bryson and Washington.
Southgate makes her debut as a writer to watch in this compelling, provocative tale of how race and class ensnare Hansen, Washington, and Bryson as they journey toward an inevitable and ultimately tragic confrontation.

About the Author

Martha Southgate is a graduate of Smith College, with an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. She has had fellowships at the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She was books editor at Essence and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, and Rosie, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is at work on her next novel. You can visit her Web site at

Praise For The Fall of Rome: A Novel

Jonathan Yardley The Washington Post Southgate has given us a genuinely tragic figure...a man brought down by his own tragic flaw, and thus a man who has much to teach us that far transcends race.

Liza Featherstone Newsday Beautifully executed....[The Fall of Rome] deserves to be widely read.

The New Yorker [Southgate] remains true to the enigma of her hero, and her rendering of his voice -- pensive, rueful, and entirely devoid of self-pity -- is convincing.

Michael Pakenham Baltimore Sun A tour de force of what might be called post-Movement race realities in the United States.