In this searing novel, Caryl Phillips reimagines the life of the first black entertainer in the U.S. to reach the highest levels of fame and fortune.After years of struggling for success on the stage, Bert Williams (1874—1922), the child of recent immigrants from the Bahamas, made the radical decision to don blackface makeup and play the “coon.” Behind this mask he became a Broadway headliner–as influential a comedian as Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and W. C. Fields, who called him “the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew.” It is this dichotomy at Williams’ core that Phillips explores in this richly nuanced, brilliantly written novel, unblinking in its attention to the sinister compromises that make up an identity.
About the Author
Caryl Phillips is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including "Dancing in the Dark", "Crossing the River", and "Color Me English". His novel "A Distant Shore "won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and his other awards include a Lannan Foundation Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Britain's oldest literary award the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in New York.
“His best work–cerebral, tender, masterful in its scope and vision.” –The Miami Herald“Delicate, moving, dramatic. . . . Phillips writes powerfully.” –The Washington Post Book World“An exquisitely moving novel. . . . Only a writer as profoundly intuitive as Phillips could bring that shrouded history to light.” –O, The Oprah Magazine