Literary Hub is pleased to reveal the cover for Ours, the debut novel by award-winning poet Philip B. Williams, forthcoming from Viking in February. Here’s a bit about the book from the publisher:
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 conjure 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.
And here’s the gorgeous cover, which was designed by Lynn Buckley, with art by Damilola Opedun:
“Lynn Buckley’s vision for my novel, Ours, as expressed in her design is a miraculous merging of plot and character as imagined from her impeccable read of the book,” Williams told Lit Hub.
From her choice of visual artist, the great Damilola Opedun, to the title and author name rendered in water coloring by her hand, the conversation between story and design couldn’t be any clearer. I love the hoop earrings worn by the model on the right, paired with the colonial attire that creates a bizarre anachronism fitting for the novel. The couple’s confident and relaxed looks, while their hooked arms could be that of lovers or good friends, brings to life many themes in my novel. This is proof that deep reading of any work by an attentive reader makes for a true collaboration.
“I felt this image by Damilola Opedun captured the novel perfectly,” said Buckley. “The otherworldly pastel colors of the traditional colonial dress and the halos around the subjects’ heads suggest a powerful and magical retelling of history. The pride, joy, and power in the couple’s stance conveys some of the essential qualities of the characters in the novel. In my mind, the couple corresponds to Saint, the enigmatic main character, and Frances, a queer person whose pronouns vary over the course of the story. That said, there are many couples from the novel who’s friendship and companionship could be represented here. Opedun’s work raises thought-provoking questions about the relationship between the past and the future, which made this image feel like a natural fit for Ours.”
Ours will be published on February 20, 2024 by Viking. You can preorder it here.