Ours: A Novel (Hardcover)
“A beautifully-written and ambitious epic about the complexity of freedom.” —Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half
An epic novel set in mid-nineteenth-century America about the spiritual costs of a freedom that demands fierce protection
In this ingenious, sweeping novel, Phillip B. Williams introduces us to an enigmatic woman named Saint, a fearsome conjuror who, in the 1830s, annihilates plantations all over Arkansas to rescue the people enslaved there. She brings those she has freed to a haven of her own creation: a town just north of St. Louis, magically concealed from outsiders, named Ours.
It is in this miraculous place that Saint’s grand experiment—a truly secluded community where her people may flourish—takes root. But although Saint does her best to protect the inhabitants of Ours, over time, her conjuring and memories begin to betray her, leaving the town vulnerable to intrusions by newcomers with powers of their own. As the cracks in Saint’s creation are exposed, some begin to wonder whether the community’s safety might be yet another form of bondage.
Set over the course of four decades and steeped in a rich tradition of American literature informed by Black surrealism, mythology, and spirituality, Ours is a stunning exploration of the possibilities and limitations of love and freedom by a writer of capacious vision and talent.
About the Author
Phillip B. Williams is from Chicago, Illinois, and is the author of two collections of poetry, Thief in the Interior, which was the winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a Lambda Literary Award, and Mutiny, which was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection and the winner of a 2022 American Book Award. Williams is also the recipient of a Whiting Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently teaches in the MFA creative writing program at New York University.
Advance praise for Ours:
“A gorgeously written, evocative saga of Black American survival and transcendence, blending elements of fantasy, mythology, and multigenerational history . . . resonant [and] wildly imaginative . . . As in the magical realist sagas of Latin America or the grand fictions of Russian literature, time itself becomes a morphing, enigmatic character in Williams’ novel . . . what keeps you attentive, and the sweeping narrative anchored, are the rich characterizations and, most of all, the often-startling impact of Williams’ poetically illuminated language. A multilayered, enrapturing chronicle of freedom that interrogates the nature of freedom itself.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“A beautifully-written and ambitious epic about the complexity of freedom. Williams crafts an expansive, original world filled with characters who linger long after the final page.” —Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half
“In Ours, Phillip B. Williams creates a fictional town with a complicated, magical history that is as thrilling to explore as the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. The mysteries at the heart of this novel are deeply considered, as is the concept of freedom itself. With a poet’s precision of language and a seasoned storyteller’s attention to character, Williams has written a truly one-of-a-kind epic.” —Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House
“As consummate and compelling a storyteller as he is a poet, in Ours Phillip B. Williams spins a stellar tale of resistance and reconstruction that could school any US history book. Crossing rivers and decades, involving folk culture and the miraculous as a matter of course, and centering on the mysterious Saint and the secret community she creates in the midst of 19th century chattel slavery and the long battle for Black freedom, Ours speaks to our past, present and future with incomparable poetic verve.” —John Keene, National Book Award-winning author of Punks: New and Selected Poems
“Phillip Williams’ Ours is a radical re-creation of our pasts. With a keen eye to historical detail and the expansive imagination of a poet, Williams has constructed a jewel of a novel, a deeply felt exploration of the strengthening ties and broken cords of kith and kin under the weight of complicated histories. In the uncertain future that awaits us, Ours illuminates a greater understanding of what it means to be human and the complex, tangled lives and afterlives of enslavement.” —Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of Libertie