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2022 Longlist

Crooked Hallelujah

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ABOUT
THE BOOK

It is 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women, presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine’s father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church — a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying, but Justine does her best as a devoted daughter, until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever.

Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine—a mixed-blood Cherokee woman—and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma’s Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas is not easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world—of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados—intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.

In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn, Cherokee women sacrifice for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.

 

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR Kelli
Jo Ford

Kelli Jo Ford, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize, the Everett Southwest Literary Award, and a National Artist Fellowship by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Her fiction has appeared in the Paris Review and the Virginia Quarterly Review among other places. Crooked Hallelujah is her debut novel.

Kelli Jo Ford, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize, the Everett Southwest Literary Award, and a National Artist Fellowship by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Her fiction has appeared in the Paris Review and the Virginia Quarterly Review among other places. Crooked Hallelujah is her debut novel.

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NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS

“Strong women. Strong beliefs. Four generations. Struggling hard.
The story starts in the mid-seventies and circles around 15-year-old Justine. She grows up in an evangelical environment. Lula, her mother, follows the strict rules of her church’s community. It is Granny who reliably provides a home, a family and heritage. This helps Justine raise her baby girl, Reeney. Their “paradise” is Indian Country, Oklahoma. Justine wants her daughter to grow up strong and free. She therefore seeks their luck in Oil Country, Texas. There – again – it needs all her womanly strength to make a living, to keep a home.

Years later, when Reeney returns to her mother as an urban intellectual, she is confronted with an apocalyptic scenery, including earthquakes, storms and a group of “Riders for Christ”. Justine has changed from a freedom-loving individual to being close-minded and wanting to “be ready”, now resembling her own evangelical mother from decades before. How will Reeney respond, how strong are family bonds?

This novel runs deep. We can follow these women of the First Nation and their challenges of poverty and opportunity, resilience and endurance. We can witness America’s society change and separate. We can read the signs on the wall and believe them or not.

The prose is full of livid pictures, a close-up of the acting characters, though sparse with direct speech. For us as readers, this leaves space to explore the inner workings and let us develop a strong relation with the main characters. Stadtbücherei Frankfurt am Main, Germany

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Date published
14/07/2020
Country
United States
Original Language
English
Author
Publisher
Black Cat Grove Press

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