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Excerpt from Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Land of Love and Drowning

by Tiphanie Yanique

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique X
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2014, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


Owen Arthur is right. All these shes will outlive him, though he cannot bear the thought of his women going on. He knows his daughter will live forever, in the way all parents do, simply because parents generally die first. But Owen will not die of old age. Owen will die of love. The Danish West Indies will become the United States Virgin Islands and then this patriarch will die. And perhaps these things are the same thing.

"Behold," the American is saying in his strange accent. He hands the girl a glass ball and then whispers to her, "Do not drop it or I will punish you." She does not make a move to suggest she has heard. She only takes the glass ball in both her hands. And then the first miracle happens—her hair begins to rise. The storm outside begins to howl.

"Christ, have mercy." This is what the Christians whisper. The Jewish and Muslim men for whom these islands have been a refuge, mutter "Oy, Gotenu" and "Allahu Akbar" under their breaths respectfully. Yes, America will bring us progress. Here is progress before us.

Lightning claws through the window, as though hunting. And Owen Arthur watches the girl's hair rise towards the ceiling until it is sticking up like so many angel horns.

Oh, the stories these men will tell of this night. How they will embellish one part, shrink the other. How they will make this night real again and again, some in Arabic or Danish or Yiddish or English, others in that Caribbean language that tourist guidebooks will call "Creole." The story will become more real than the night itself because the story of it will last, while this wet night will soon be over. And here we are putting it down, so that it may last forever.

But Owen Arthur thinks on his firstborn. His only child, thus far, who has survived to life. His honey-skinned Eeona. Her hair, too, has a life of its own. He has combed it himself and knotted it into braids and found that he can get lost in its forest. He collects the pieces of her hair from the brush and burns them himself, so that no one can steal them and put a curse on her. Owen himself is not a hairy man, he does not even sport the sideburns so popular for men of this time and place. His daughter has the glorious hair on her head but otherwise she, too, is smooth all over.

Eeona is so beautiful that many call her pure and they think on the virgin hills. Or they call her pristine and they think of the clear and open ocean. Or they might use terms such as untouched or undefiled, but then they are cautious because they know that their words alone might spoil her. So on damp nights men imagine that they are angels and may touch her as they please, but when they wake, they sign themselves with the cross. And if available, they pat handfuls of holy water on their chests. They do not really wish to pollute little Eeona. They only wish to witness a bit and then return, like a tourist might.

The American scientist takes the ball from this other little girl in this parlour. Now he prepares for the real triumph. He will make the little girl into a miracle. The scientist raises the vial to the little girl's face. The little girl is wise as little girls must be. She does not flinch, but she closes her eyes. The scientist touches the vial to her nose. White lights spark like lightning about her face. She cries out, but the men clap louder. They have seen electricity! They have seen the future!

"Mr. Lovernkrandt," the scientist says, "you must try." The vial is passed to the man of the house, who has been standing near a window that is fastened but not sealed—the legs of rain kicking at his back. He steps forwards, and with great hesitation that might be mistaken for trepidation were he not a wealthy man, he presses the vial to the brave girl's nose. He feels the shock in his hand and up his wet sleeve and lurches away. "Mercy," he exclaims so loudly that no one hears the little girl cry out again. His face is hot. For a moment he had thought he would be paralyzed. But he had survived.

Excerpted from Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique. Copyright © 2014 by Tiphanie Yanique. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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