Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
by Lucille Clifton, introduction by Tracy K. Smith
Buffalo, New York. A father’s funeral. Memory. In Generations, Lucille Clifton’s formidable poetic gift emerges in prose, giving us a memoir of stark and profound beauty. Her story focuses on the lives of the Sayles family: Caroline, “born among the Dahomey people in 1822,” who walked north from New Orleans to Virginia in 1830 when she was eight years old; Lucy, the first black woman to be hanged in Virginia; and Gene, born with a withered arm, the son of a carpetbagger and the author’s grandmother. Clifton tells us about the life of an African American family through slavery and hard times and beyond, the death of her father and grandmother, but also all the life and love and triumph that came before and remains even now. Generations is a powerful work of determination and affirmation. “I look at my husband,” Clifton writes, “and my children and I feel the Dahomey women gathering in my bones.”
[Clifton's] works are explicitly historical and of a palpable present moment.
—The Paris Review
You can easily see the reflection of [Clifton's] tight, spare poetry in this exceedingly compact book, which is all the more affecting for its light touch and suggestive sketches of all the American Sayles, including a few of the white ones.