Synopses & Reviews
A dazzling family saga that brilliantly reflects the reality of the African-American experience in the United States
Hatch and Jesus Jones are cousins on their fathers' side and on their mothers' side, and you can't have a family much more bound than that. And family is the most important entity for these young men, even when family seems to be defined by abandonment. Rails Under My Back traces these two men from one form of bondage or freedom to another, from one job to another, as they face down danger and try to come to terms with their family's past.
This ambitious novel, which has been hailed by critics nationwide as a rare achievement on the level of fiction by Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright, is the communal expression of a century of African-American life in America, with its imagery of exodus and exile, departure and destiny. It wields extraordinary literary, religious, and historical power, and announces the triumphant debut of a most powerful and utterly original voice.
"Rails Under My Back" reveals its family theme in a depiction of its paradoxical opposite: abandonment. Allen tracks the lives of two brothers, Lucius and John Jones, who are married to two sisters, Gracie and Sheila McShan. The McShans and the Joneses always prevail, and their story has literary, religious, and historical power.
About the Author
Jeffery Renard Allen was born in Chicago in 1962 and received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois in Chicago. He has taught at Queens College since 1992.