An exploration of NYC and America in the burgeoning moments before the start of the Civil War through the eyes of a young, biracial girl—the highly anticipated new novel from the winner of the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize.
"Corthron, a true heir to James Baldwin, presents a startlingly original exposure of the complex roots of American racism." —Naomi Wallace, MacArthur "Genius" Playwriting Fellow and author of One Flea Spare
In Moon and the Mars, set in the impoverished Five Points district of New York City in the years 1857-1863, we experience neighborhood life through the eyes of Theo from childhood to adolescence, an orphan living between the homes of her Black and Irish grandmothers. Throughout her formative years, Theo witnesses everything from the creation of tap dance to P.T. Barnum's sensationalist museum to the draft riots that tear NYC asunder, amidst the daily maelstrom of Five Points work, hardship, and camaraderie. Meanwhile, white America's attitudes towards people of color and slavery are shifting—painfully, transformationally—as the nation divides and marches to war.
As with her first novel, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, which was praised by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Angela Y. Davis, among many others, Corthron's use of dialogue brings her characters to life in a way that only an award-winning playwright and scriptwriter can do. As Theo grows and attends school, her language and grammar change, as does her own vocabulary when she's with her Black or Irish families. It's an extraordinary feat and a revelation for the reader.
"Moon and the Mars, [Corthron's] latest masterpiece, is an absorbing story of family and community, of Africans and Irish, of settler and native, of slavery and abolition, of a city and a nation wracked by Civil War and racist violence, of love won and lost." —Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
About the Author
KIA CORTHRON's debut fiction, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, was the winner of the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. She was the 2017 Bread Loaf Shane Stevens Fellow in the Novel. She is also a nationally and internationally produced playwright. For her body of work for the stage, she has garnered the Windham Campbell Prize for Drama, the Horton Foote Prize, the United States Artists Jane Addams Fellowship, the Flora Roberts Award, and others. She was born and raised in Cumberland, Maryland, and lives in Harlem, New York City.
"Ms. Corthron’s humility and curiosity match her outsize intellect and ambition. ... Theo is the lone narrator in Moon and the Mars, but her voice is so rich with the locutions and grammatical tics of her joint heritage that it sounds almost choral."
—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"Kia Corthron has a knack for seeing what we cannot, for laying bare the truths we refuse to see. Moon and the Mars, her latest masterpiece, is an absorbing story of family and community, of Africans and Irish, of settler and native, of slavery and abolition, of a city and a nation wracked by Civil War and racist violence, of love won and lost. Unsettling the victim-perpetrator binary, she writes instead of people caught in the whirlwind of history, violence, politics, ideology, love, and desire; people navigating the actual world where race lines are drawn in shifting sands in blood and glue, elusive yet enduring, smelling of death and flowers. Corthron once again reminds us that nothing is black and white."
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
"A searing, far-flung epic, a truly American tale, centered on one girl of African-American and Irish heritage, as she makes her way into a world rife with brutality, change and war. Kia Corthron is one of our finest novelists, constantly unveiling the truth and the way histories have been hidden from us, revealing people in all their glory and imperfection. This isn't just a novel. It is a history, a monument to hope."
—Rene Denfeld, author of The Enchanted and The Child Finder
"Rarely does one encounter a book that can so profoundly change a reader. Moon and the Mars is that book. Corthron, a true heir to James Baldwin, presents a startlingly original exposure of the complex roots of American racism and classism as well as a sweeping exploration of love in all its myriad forms. The best work of fiction I have read in many years."
—Naomi Wallace, MacArthur "Genius" Playwriting Fellow and author of One Flea Spare
"Kia Corthron is a singular crucial creative artist with enormous vitality, re-imagining the real life of New York City rooted in new histories."
—Sarah Schulman, author of Let the Record Show
"Playwright and novelist Corthron (The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter) combines a propulsive coming-of-age story with a fascinating history of the years before and after the Civil War... Corthron smoothly weaves in historical developments as divisions flare in the Five Points, such as the implications of the Dred Scott case, something Grammy Brook sums up concisely: “Whenever the rich make a crisis, you know what gonna fall to the poor is catastrophe.” Corthron’s ambition pays off with dividends."
"Kia Corthron, writing with insight, empathy and an acute sense of history, has reached into the divided heart of nineteenth century New York and produced a story of exceptional power. Through the eyes of Theodora Brigid Brook, a young woman of Irish and African ancestry, we encounter a city of vibrant streets, tangled loyalties, and the best and worst possibilities.”
—Robert W. Snyder, Manhattan Borough Historian and coauthor of All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants, and the Making of New York
"In the native language of the colonized Irish Gael, the proverb Ar scáth a chéile a mahireann na daoine tells us it’s in the shelter of each other that the people survive. In Moon and the Mars, Kia Corthron has channeled the Seanchaí and the Griot, using beautifully rendered, gripping storytelling to resurrect histories too often disappeared. You will fall in love with Theo, a Black and Irish child who embodies her histories, as she takes you by the hand, guiding you through a mid-19th Century Manhattan landscape of community, solidarity, class manipulations, and racist violence. And you’ll tear through these streets and pages of joy and heartbreak full tilt, emerging with a renewed call to solidarity—for all our survival."
—Michael Patrick MacDonald, bestselling author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie and Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion
"Corthron’s new historical epic spins an absorbing and linguistically nimble tale that proves she’s one of our most dynamic and risk-taking writers."
—Chicago Review of Books
"In her absorbing and original second novel, Kia Corthron examines racism, family and identity through the eyes of Theo, a young biracial orphan growing up in mid-19th century New York City. You won’t soon forget this one."
—Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine