“It is Flournoy’s finely tuned empathy that infuses her characters with a radiant humanity.” –O, the Oprah Magazine
A finalist for the National Book Award, Angela Flournoy is the author of the powerful debut novel The Turner House which was also shortlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and named a New York Times Notable Book of 2015. Flournoy was named a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation. Flournoy’s fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, and she has written for The New York Times, The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times.
The National Book Foundation declares the book “marks a major new contribution to the story of the American family” and is “a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams and futures, and the ways in which our families bring us home.” The NBA Judges Citation states: “What is the value of a home to a family? In her stirring first novel, The Turner House, Angela Flournoy explores this question through the lens of the Turner family of Detroit. Spanning nearly three quarters of a century and several generations, the book becomes a portrait not only of the Turners but also of their city—history uncovered through the inner life. Masterful, evocative, deftly rendered, it reminds us of the bonds, familial or otherwise, that link us all.”
A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Flournoy has taught at the University of Iowa and The Writer’s Foundry at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. She was raised in Southern California by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit.
Angela Flournoy is the author of The Turner House, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, a Summer 2015 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, a May 2015 Indie Next pick and a New York Times Sunday Book Review Editors’ Choice. She was also a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation. Her fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, and she has written for The New York Times, The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Flournoy has taught at the University of Iowa and The Writer’s Foundry at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. She was raised in Southern California by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit.
TURNER HOUSE (Novel, 2015)
“Flournoy’s knockout debut is one of those books that should, by rights, be described as the Great American Novel.” — NPR
For over fifty years the Turners have lived on Yarrow Street. Their house has seen thirteen children get grown and gone—and some return; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. But when their powerful mother falls ill, the Turners are called home to decide their house’s fate and to reckon with how their past haunts—and shapes—their future. The Turner House is a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams, and the ways in which our families bring us home.
The Turner House is a New York Times Notable Book and was named a Best Book of the Year by O, The Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Essence, Men’s Journal, Buzzfeed, Time Out, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, BookPage, Literary Hub and others
TURNER HOUSE (excerpt)
Trouble in the Big Room
The eldest six of Francis and Viola Turner’s thirteen children claimed that the big room of the house on Yarrow Street was haunted for at least one night. A ghost — a haint, if you will — tried to pull Cha-Cha out of the big room’s second-story window.
The big room was not, in actuality, very big. Could hardly be considered a room. For some other family it might have made a decent storage closet, or a mother’s cramped sewing room. For the Turners it became the only single-occupancy bedroom in their overcrowded house. A rare and coveted space.
In the summer of 1958, Cha-Cha, the eldest child at fourteen years, was in the throes of a gangly-legged, croaky-voiced adolescence. Smelling himself, Viola called it. Tired of sharing a bed with younger brothers who peed and kicked and drooled and blanket-hogged, Cha-Cha woke up one evening, untangled himself from his brothers’ errant limbs, and stumbled into the whatnot closet across the hall. He slept on the floor, curled up with his back against dusty boxes, and started a tradition. From then on, when one Turner child got grown and gone, as Francis described it, the next eldest child crossed the threshold into the big room.
The haunting, according to the older children, occurred during the very same summer that the big room became a bedroom. Lonnie, the youngest child then, was the first to witness the haint’s attack. He’d just begun visiting the bathroom alone and was headed there when he had the opportunity to save his brother’s life.
Three-year-olds are of a tenuous reliability, but to this day Lonnie recalls the form of a pale-hued young man lifting Cha-Cha by his pajama collar out of the bed and toward the narrow window. Back then a majority of the homeowners in that part of Detroit’s east side were still white, and the street had no empty lots.
“Cha-Cha’s sneakin out! Cha-Cha’s sneakin out with a white boy!” Lonnie sang. He stamped his little feet on the floorboards.
Soon Quincy and Russell spilled into the hallway. They saw Cha-Cha, all elbows and fists, swinging at the haint. It had let go of Cha-Cha’s collar and was now on the defensive. Quincy would later insist that the haint emitted a blue, electric-looking light, and each time Cha-Cha’s fists connected with its body the entire thing flickered like a faulty lamp.
Seven-year-old Russell fainted. Little Lonnie stood transfixed, a pool of urine at his feet, his eyes open wide. Quincy banged on his parents’ locked bedroom door. Viola and Francis Turner were not in the habit of waking up to tend to ordinary child nightmares or bed-wetting kerfuffles.
Francey, the eldest girl at twelve, burst into the crowded hallway just as Cha-Cha was giving the haint his worst. She would later say the haint’s skin had a jellyfish-like translucency, and the pupils of its eyes were huge, dark disks.
“Let him go, and run, Cha-Cha!” Francey said.
“He ain’t runnin me outta here,” Cha-Cha yelled back.
With the exception of Lonnie, who had been crying, the four Turner children in the hallway fell silent. They’d heard plenty of tales of mischievous haints from their cousins Down South — they pushed people into wells, made hanged men dance in midair — so it did not follow that a spirit from the other side would have to spend several minutes fighting off a territorial fourteen-year-old.
Francey possessed an aptitude for levelheadedness in the face of crisis. She decided she’d seen enough of this paranormal beat-down. She marched into Cha-Cha’s room, grabbed her brother by his stretched-out collar, and dragged him into the hall. She slammed the big-room door behind them and pulled Cha-Cha to the floor. They landed in Lonnie’s piss.
“That haint tried to run me outta the room,” Cha-Cha said. He wore the indignant look — eyebrows raised, lips parted — of someone who has suffered an unbearable affront.
“There ain’t no haints in Detroit,” Francis Turner said. His children jerked at the sound of his voice. That was how he existed in their lives: suddenly there, on his own time, his quiet authority augmenting the air in a room. He stepped over their skinny brown legs and opened the big room’s door.
Francis Turner called Cha-Cha into the room.
The window was open, and the beige sheets from Cha-Cha’s bed hung over the sill.
“Look under the bed.”
“Behind the dresser.”
“Put them sheets back where they belong.”
Cha-Cha obliged. He felt his father’s eyes on him as he worked. When he finished, he sat down on the bed, unprompted, and rubbed his neck. Francis Turner sat next to him.
“Ain’t no haints in Detroit, son.” He did not look at Cha-Cha.
“It tried to run me outta the room.”
“I don’t know what all happened, but it wasn’t that.”
Cha-Cha opened his mouth, then closed it.
“If you ain’t grown enough to sleep by yourself, I suggest you move on back across the hall.”
Francis Turner stood up to go, faced his son. He reached for Cha-Cha’s collar, pulled it open, and put his index finger to the line of irritated skin below the Adam’s apple. For a moment Cha-Cha saw the specter of true panic in his father’s eyes, then Francis’s face settled into an ambivalent frown.
“That’ll be gone in a day or two,” he said.
In the hallway the other children stood lined up against the wall. Marlene, child number five and a bit sickly, had finally come out of the girls’ room.
“Francey and Quincy, clean up Lonnie’s mess, and all y’all best go to sleep. I don’t wanna hear nobody talkin about they’re tired come morning.”
Francis Turner closed his bedroom door.
The mess was cleaned up, but no one, not even little Lonnie, slept in the right bed that night. How could they, with the window curtains puffing out and sucking in like gauzy lungs in the breeze? The children crowded into Cha-Cha’s room — a privileged first visit for most of them.
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