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Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681375168
Pages: 240
Publication Date: July 13, 2021

The Stone Face

by William Gardner Smith, introduction by Adam Shatz

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July 2021 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club

As a teenager, Simeon Brown lost an eye in a racist attack, and this young African American journalist has lived in his native Philadelphia in a state of agonizing tension ever since. After a violent encounter with white sailors, Simeon makes up his mind to move to Paris, known as a safe haven for black artists and intellectuals, and before long he is under the spell of the City of Light, where he can do as he likes and go where he pleases without fear. Through Babe, another black American émigré, he makes new friends, and soon he has fallen in love with a Polish actress who is a concentration camp survivor. At the same time, however, Simeon begins to suspect that Paris is hardly the racial wonderland he imagined: The French government is struggling to suppress the revolution in Algeria, and Algerians are regularly stopped and searched, beaten, and arrested by the French police, while much worse is to come, it will turn out, in response to the protest march of October 1961. Through his friendship with Hossein, an Algerian radical, Simeon realizes that he can no longer remain a passive spectator to French injustice. He must decide where his true loyalties lie.


While there is much to improve in how we support each other at home and across the globe, Smith’s novel reminds us of the immense power in solidarity and our duty to always rise up for justice and freedom.
—Zeena Yasmine Fuleihan, Ploughshares

A thought-provoking and an oddly humanizing and liberating book.
Kirkus Reviews

A complex exploration of power and justice.
—Corrine Segal, Lit Hub

A courageous novel. . . . The Stone Face represents the maturing of a voice determined to confound preconceived notions about patriotism, Blackness and sanctuary, and accordingly the story takes no prisoners, so to speak.
—James Hannaham, The New York Times