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A lost masterpiece of American literature about the creative evolution of a young Black woman in California and her intense relationship with an indie filmmaker
Alison Mills Newman’s innovative, genre-bending novel has long been out of print and impossible to find. A “fluently funky mix of standard and nonstandard English,” as the poet and scholar Harryette Mullen once put it, Francisco is the first-person account of a young actress and musician and her growing disillusionment with her success in Hollywood. Her wildly original and vivid voice chronicles a free-spirited life with her filmmaker lover, visiting friends and family up and down California, as well as her involvement in the 1970s Black Arts Movement. Love and friendship, long, meaningful conversations, parties and dancing—Francisco celebrates, as she improvises in the book, “the workings of a positive alive life that is good value, quality, carin, truth … the gift of art for the survival of the human heart.”
About the Author
Alison Mills Newman started her career as the first African American teenage actress on a television series (Julia). As a musician and vocalist she has performed with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Weather Report, and Taj Mahal. She is an award-winning film director and the author of the novel Maggie 3. Mills Newman is the president of Keep the Faith Film Ministries, a chaplain at Fulton County Jail, and has five beautiful children with the late Francisco Toscono Newman, as well as ten grandchildren.
Saidiya Hartman is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, and Scenes of Subjection. A MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, she is a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and lives in New York.
Mills Newman has done the rare thing: written with beauty, power, and purity about a woman.
— Toni Morrison
Mills Newman’s exquisitely distilled novel, Francisco, is the song one would expect Love to be singing these troubled days of the 1970s—a song you cannot have heard before, off-key and haunting, disturbing even in its unfamiliarity.
— William Demby
When blackness, then and now, is so burdened with pain, it is a blessing to find a story of black lovers, written by a woman learning to love herself as she falls in love with Francisco.
— Harryette Mullen
[Francisco] promises to introduce a new generation of readers to Newman’s innovative and genre-bending story.
— Isle McElroy - The Millions
This brilliant, long out-of-print novel was rescued by (who else?) New Directions...snappy asides and transitions appear as enjambments — pushing the pace forward like the ding of a typewriter carriage. The sensuousness is the point. This latest edition of Francisco gives a new generation of readers the opportunity to think about how little has changed in the culture industry’s relationship of convenience with Black artists.
— Justin Rosier - Vulture
Readers will be grateful for the raw fervor and passion found in these pages.
— Publishers Weekly
The book makes space for rumination, complexity, and transience. It offers a unique window into the mind of one woman, at one moment in history, and by doing so examines beauty, sex, and art through her eyes. Once you get into the flow of Newman’s prose, you’ll find artistic and intellectual riches.
— Kirkus Reviews
The novel blends vernacular riffs with cameos from Reed and Muhammad Ali, Pharoah Sanders and Angela Davis, Melvin Van Peebles and Amiri Baraka.
— Adam Bradley - The New York Times