What is the value of a home to a family? In her stirring first novel, The Turner House, Angela Flournoy explores this question through the lens of the Turner family of Detroit. Spanning nearly three quarters of a century and several generations, the book becomes a portrait not only of the Turners but also of their city—history uncovered through the inner life. Masterful, evocative, deftly rendered, it reminds us of the bonds, familial or otherwise, that link us all.
National Book Foundation: In the process of writing your book, what did you discover, what, if anything, surprised you?
Flournoy: I wrote The Turner House over four years, and for long stretches during that time, my work on the book was the most constant aspect of my life. In the end I surprised myself by being so inexhaustible when it came to the novel, and the research it required. When I first learned about Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, neighborhoods that no longer exist in Detroit that were home to black migrants from the south, I was unsure about addressing this history in my novel. I feared it was a diversion, that I'd spend months researching and it wouldn't make sense to include this information anywhere in the novel. Ultimately, I couldn't resist jumping down that research rabbit hole, and all the others that came after it. Now I think that pursuing the unknown or difficult elements of a story is my favorite part of being a writer.
ABOUT THE BOOK
A powerful, timely debut, The Turner House marks a major new contribution to the story of the American family. The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone--and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit's East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts--and shapes--their family's future. Already praised by Ayana Mathis as "utterly moving" and "un-putdownable," The Turner House brings us a colorful, complicated brood full of love and pride, sacrifice and unlikely inheritances. It's a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams and futures, and the ways in which our families bring us home.
About the Author
Angela Flournoy is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Southern California. She has taught writing at various universities and has worked for the D.C. Public Library. She was raised in Southern California by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit.