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Cannell Agency
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Graywolf Press (2015-10-20)
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Final Pages
Original language
English
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RAILS UNDER MY BACK

by Allen, Jeffery Renard

Rails Under My Back is a multifaceted, brilliantly colored, intensely musical novel that pulses with urgency and originality.

When it was first published fifteen years ago, Jeffery Renard Allen's debut novel, Rails Under My Back, earned its author comparisons to some of the giants of twentieth-century modernism. The publication of Allen's equally ambitious second novel, Song of the Shank, cemented those lofty claims. Now, the book that established his reputation is being restored to print in its first Graywolf Press edition. Together, the two novels stand as significant achievements of twenty-first-century literature.

Rails Under My Back is an epic that tracks the interwoven lives of two brothers, Lucius and John Jones, who are married to two sisters, Gracie and Sheila McShan. For them, their parents, and their children, life is always full of departures; someone is always fleeing town and leaving the remaining family to suffer the often dramatic, sometimes tragic consequences. The multiple effects of the comings and goings are devastating: These are the almost mythic expression of the African American experience in the half century that followed the Second World War.

The story ranges, as the characters do, from the city, which is somewhat like both New York and Chicago, to Memphis, to the West, and to many "inner" and "outer" locales. Rails Under My Back is a multifaceted, brilliantly colored, intensely musical novel that pulses with urgency and originality.

Jeffery Renard Allen is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. He taught for many years in the Writing Program at The New School as well as at Columbia University and New York University.
Allen is the author of five books, including the novel Song of the Shank, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Rails Under My Back won the Chicago Tribune's Heartland Prize for Fiction and the short story collection Holding Pattern received The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Allen is also the author of two collections of poetry. Allen is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a grant in Innovative Literature from the Creative Capital Foundation and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Born in Chicago, Allen holds a PhD n English (Creative Writing) from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the founder and director of the Pan African Literary Forum, and is the fiction director of the Norman Mailer Center Writers Colony.

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Comments

A novel of immense power... If there is justice in the literary world, this book will make a large mark on the first decade of a new century in American letters.

Review: Elle

A powerful first novel that uses the railroad as a complex metaphor . . . An exciting and rewarding successor to the legacy of James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison. Allen worked ten years on this novel, and the result is a very im- pressive creation: the work of an unusually gifted, disciplined, and more than promising writer.

Review: Kirkus, starred review

Jeffery Renard Allen can make words sing, sag and somersault simultaneously... The breadth, depth, and virtuosity of this novel are awesome...

Review: The Philadelphia Inquirer

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