Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard narrates Glorious, by Bernice L. McFadden, a novel set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era. This is the story of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path out of Waycross, Georgia, to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty. Woodard’s nuanced narration beautifully enhances McFadden’s imaginative blend of fictional and real events and people—such as Marcus Garvey, Langston Hughes, pianist Fats Waller, and shipping heiress Nancy Cunard.
Glorious poses the question that is the title of Langston Hughes’s famous poem: What happens to a dream deferred? It is an audacious exploration into the nature of self-hatred, love, possession, ego, betrayal, and, finally, redemption. Easter is not only a survivor, but also a creator, and a fearless blazer of trails.
Bernice L. McFadden is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, including the classic Sugar and Nowhere Is a Place, which was a Washington Post Best Fiction title for 2006.
Bernice McFadden's Glorious opens with an interesting premise. If the real-life "Fight of the Century" between Jack Johnson and James Jeffries hadn't occurred, then the life of our protagonist, Easter Bartlett, might not have taken the turns it did. She might not have been moved to leave her hometown of Waycross, Georgia; might not have met the strangely fascinating dancer named Rain; might not have ended up married to Marcus Garvey's would-be assassin; and might not have found herself a darling of the Harlem Renaissance.
Although the historical events mentioned in Easter's story most certainly occurred, Easter Bartlett is nothing but a figment of McFadden's imagination. The book, which is half Ragtime and half Beloved, is fresh for both reasons. While its fictional main character may be more engaging than the real figures that populate the story, the novel is written so that history serves as a supporting actor, a mirror to reflect the true drama of what's happening in Easter's world and the world at large.
As such, Glorious is filled with many voices telling many stories. The prose flows along swiftly, catching in its current a number of different places and social spheres. Alfre Woodard rises to this challenge with incredible talent and range. One moment she's an early-1900s white socialite, the next a Caribbean man freshly immigrated to America. She's totally competent in each new role, turning an exceptional piece of new literature into a kind of epic bedtime story, complete with colorful voices. Woodard rolls gracefully with McFadden's wild cast of characters, inhabiting each of their experiences, adding volumes to the mythical feeling of the work and, with McFadden's help, making us believe their stories. Gina Pensiero
Audie Award Winner - Best Solo Narration - Female, 2011
"McFadden's lively and loving rendering of New York hews closely to the jazz-inflected city of myth.... McFadden has a wonderful ear for dialogue, and her entertaining prose equally accommodates humor and pathos." (New York Times Book Review)
"McFadden tells Easter's story with zest and affection." (All Things Considered, NPR)
"Easter's hope for love to overthrow hate—and her intense exposure to both—cogently stands for America's potential, and McFadden's novel is a triumphant portrayal of the ongoing quest." (Publishers Weekly)
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