The Book of Harlan
by Bernice L. McFadden
- 1 Time AALBC.com Bestselling Book!
- Selected for 1 Book Club’s Reading List
- An NAACP Image Award Honored Book
“The Book of Harlan was inspired by the life of my paternal grandfather; Harold Isaac McFadden (pictured on the cover)
I never personally knew the man and neither did my father. All I had to recreate his life were a birth certificate, census schedules, a few newspaper articles and my imagination.
In many ways, this book is the culmination of twenty years of family history research. A few weeks after I sent the manuscript to my publisher, I went down to a little town in Burke County, Georgia to meet (for the first time) my third cousins - direct descendants of my GGGrandmother, Louisa White Robinson.”
During World War II, two African American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan’s parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he becomes a musician. Soon, Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are lured across the Atlantic Ocean to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre—affectionately referred to as “The Harlem of Paris” by black American musicians.
When the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald, the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. The experience irreparably changes the course of Harlan”s life.
Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden’s mesmeric prose, The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden’s familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.