The Revisioners: A Novel (Paperback)
November 2019 Indie Next List
“Set in 1855, 1924, and 2017, this story features Ava, a modern single mother and divorcee who, down on her luck, moves in as a caretaker for her a caretaker for her grandmother, Grandma, whose lingering racism becomes more pronounced as her mind begins to fail. Also told is the story of Ava’s grandmother’s great-grandmother, Josephine, who is a slave as a child and later in life the widowed owner of a 300-acre farm. Ava and Josephine both have the ability to ‘revision,’ seeing into others’ souls and guiding them to a different place. Sexton does a beautiful job of developing her characters while accurately describing the racism that is never far away no matter the time period. This story is loving and devastating in the best way.”
— Todd Miller, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI
Winter 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List
“Margaret Wilkerson Sexton writes with captivating force; she holds a mirror to the insidious, enduring nature of American racism, revealing how it adapts to threaten Black lives in new, but not unfamiliar, ways. This novel — which spans five generations — is a love letter to grandmothers. With it, Sexton asks us to recognize and honor what we inherit from our ancestors, and how me might yield this inheritance in our fight for liberation.”
— Serena Morales, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY
This New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year is "a powerful tale of racial tensions across generations" (People) that explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors.
In 1924, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.
Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother, Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays Ava to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.
The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between mothers and their children, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.
"[A] stunning new novel . . . Sexton’s writing is clear and uncluttered, the dialogue authentic, with all the cadences of real speech . . . This is a novel about the women, the mothers." ―The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
MARGARET WILKERSON SEXTON, born and raised in New Orleans, studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, was long-listed for the National Book Award and the Northern California Book Award, won the Crook's Corner Book Prize, and was the recipient of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.
Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work―Fiction
Winner of the 2020 George Garrett New Writing Award
Long-listed for the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize
A New York Times Notable Book
A Time Must-Read Book of the Year
"This stunning novel features two African-American women connected by blood but divided by time: a biracial single mom in 2017 and a sharecropper turned farm-owning widow in 1924. The book grants the harsh facts of history the weight of myth; but the plot itself is not quite the point; this is a novel about the women." ―The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
"[Sexton’s] subtle portrayal of a Black mother’s competing desires is layered with both pathos and wit . . . This intermingling of stories makes an evocative point about the path that Black Americans have followed over the past century and a half. Each of these episodes is shattered by violence, yes, but also leavened by varying degrees of progress, despite the persistence of white people convinced of their superiority, innocence and benevolence. The result is a novel marked by acts of cruelty but not, ultimately, overwhelmed by them. The line stretching from Ava back to Josephine and beyond connects a collection of women attuned to danger, quick to adapt, remarkably hopeful about the future." ―Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"[A] sweeping novel . . . Sexton’s characters gain strength by finding one another across the generations." ―The New Yorker
"The Revisioners intricately probes and reveals the depths of women’s relationships, from the powerful to the marginalized, especially the bonds across the color line that make and break those relationships, and their generational legacies." ―Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic
"A powerful tale of racial tensions across generations." ―People
"Few capture the literary world’s attention with their debut like this author did; her first novel, A Kind of Freedom, was nominated for the National Book Award and earned several other top accolades. Her anticipated follow-up offers a bracing window into Southern life and tensions, alternating between two women’s stories―set nearly 100 years apart." ―David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
"This winding, lyrical novel tells the story of several generations and the different eras they live in through the lens of one family. The novel focuses on exploring the depths of women's relationships, the endurance of hope and trauma across centuries, and the bonds between mothers and their children." ―Kerry Breen, TODAY
"In this incantatory novel by the author of A Kind of Freedom, a biracial New Orleans woman grapples with prejudice by excavating the story of a female ancestor who endured the roil between slavery and the Jazz Age." ―O, The Oprah Magazine
"Enthralling . . . a novel where marginalized yet undeniably resilient Black women are allowed to truly shine . . . The sheer power of The Revisioners proves Sexton isn’t a one-shot writer. She has immense talent." ―Alexis Burling, San Francisco Chronicle
"The plot of The Revisioners comes secondary to the strength and clarity of Sexton’s prose and its exploration of motherhood and daughterhood, of inherited trauma and the invisible bonds that tie us to the past and give us the power to move forward into the future." ―Jillian Karande, BuzzFeed
"The Revisioners is a sublime marriage of stunning sentences and a chilling, insidious story, like if Get Out were literary fiction." ―Elena Nicolau, Refinery29
"Sexton (A Kind of Freedom) returns with this excellent story of a New Orleans family’s ascent from slavery to freedom, paying poetic tribute to their fearlessness and a 'mind magic' that fixes the present, sees into the future, and calls out from the past. In alternating chapters, two women tell their haunting, frightening, and ultimately uplifting stories . . . A chilling plot twist reveals the insidious racial divide that stretches through the generations, but it’s the larger message that’s so timely . . . This novel is both powerful and full of hope." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)