Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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9781644211038

The highly anticipated new novel from the winner of the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize examines NYC and America in the burgeoning moments before the start of the Civil War through the eyes of a young biracial girl.

"Rarely does one encounter a book that can so profoundly change a reader. Moon and the Mars is that book. Corthron, a true heir to James Baldwin, presents a startlingly original exposure of the complex roots of American racism and classism as well as a sweeping exploration of love in all its myriad forms. The best work of fiction I have read in many years." —Naomi Wallace, MacArthur "Genius" Playwriting Fellow and author of One Flea Spare


In Moon and the Mars, set in the impoverished Five Points district of New York City in the years 1857-1863, we experience neighborhood life through the eyes of Theo from childhood to adolescence, an orphan living between the homes of her Black and Irish grandparents. Throughout her formative years, Theo witnesses everything from the creation of tap dance to P.T. Barnum's sensationalist museum to the draft riots that tear NYC asunder, amidst the daily maelstrom of Five Points work, hardship, and camaraderie. Meanwhile, white America's attitudes towards people of color and slavery are shifting—painfully, transformationally—as the nation divides and marches to war.

Kia Corthron's first novel, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, won the coveted First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction in 2016. It was championed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Angela Y. Davis, among many others, and received rave reviews in The New York Times Book Review, where it was an Editor's Choice, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere.

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9781644211038

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“Kia Corthron has a knack for seeing what we cannot, for laying bare the truths we refuse to see. Moon and the Mars, her latest masterpiece, is an absorbing story of family and community, of Africans and Irish, of settler and native, of slavery and abolition, of a city and a nation wracked by Civil War and racist violence, of love won and lost. Unsettling the victim-perpetrator binary, she writes instead of people caught in the whirlwind of history, violence, politics, ideology, love, and desire; people navigating the actual world where race lines are drawn in shifting sands in blood and glue, elusive yet enduring, smelling of death and flowers. Corthron once again reminds us that nothing is black and white.”

“Rarely does one encounter a book that can so profoundly change a reader. Moon and the Mars is that book. Corthron, a true heir to James Baldwin, presents a startlingly original exposure of the complex roots of American racism and classism as well as a sweeping exploration of love in all its myriad forms. The best work of fiction I have read in many years.”

“Kia Corthron is a singular crucial creative artist with enormous vitality, re-imagining the real life of New York City rooted in new histories.”

“Kia Corthron, writing with insight, empathy and an acute sense of history, has reached into the divided heart of nineteenth century New York and produced a story of exceptional power. Through the eyes of Theodora Brigid Brook, a young woman of Irish and African ancestry, we encounter a city of vibrant streets, tangled loyalties, and the best and worst possibilities.”

“A searing, far-flung epic, a truly American tale, centered on one girl of African-American and Irish heritage, as she makes her way into a world rife with brutality, change and war. Kia Corthron is one of our finest novelists, constantly unveiling the truth and the way histories have been hidden from us, revealing people in all their glory and imperfection. This isn't just a novel. It is a history, a monument to hope.”

“Playwright and novelist Corthron combines a propulsive coming-of-age story with a fascinating history of the years before and after the Civil War. Beginning in 1857, biracial seven-year-old narrator Theo Brigid Brook observes the social upheaval and racial injustice leading to the conflict. She lives in Manhattan’s infamous Five Points neighborhood with her Grammy Brook and Grammy Cahill, who are discriminated against for being Irish and Black, respectively. Other residents of the Brook household include a barber who boards with them and a woman who escaped from slavery in South Carolina. Theo is acutely attuned to such events as the Metropolitan Police riots, and her intense relationship with the rough-and-tumble Irish lad Ciaran seems fated from an early age. While Theo is bookish and entrenched in family and community, Ciaran eschews education and takes a series of manual labor jobs. Corthron smoothly weaves in historical developments as divisions flare in the Five Points, such as the implications of the Dred Scott case, something Grammy Brook sums up concisely: “Whenever the rich make a crisis, you know what gonna fall to the poor is catastrophe.” Corthron’s ambition pays off with dividends.

“In the native language of the colonized Irish Gael, the proverb Ar scáth a chéile a mahireann na daoine tells us it’s in the shelter of each other that the people survive. In Moon and the Mars, Kia Corthron has channeled the Seanchaí and the Griot, using beautifully rendered, gripping storytelling to resurrect histories too often disappeared. You will fall in love with Theo, a Black and Irish child who embodies her histories, as she takes you by the hand, guiding you through a mid 19th Century Manhattan landscape of community, solidarity, class manipulations, and racist violence. And you’ll tear through these streets and pages of joy and heartbreak full tilt, emerging with a renewed call to solidarity—for all our survival.”

“Intriguing, well-imagined characters...”

“Kia Corthron’s debut doorstopper The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize back in 2016 and we’ve been awaiting her follow-up with much anticipation. Set in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City, which will be familiar to any Gangs of New York fans, Corthron’s new historical epic spins an absorbing and linguistically nimble tale that proves she’s one of our most dynamic and risk-taking writers.”

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KIA CORTHRON's debut novel, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, was the winner of the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. She was the 2017 Bread Loaf Shane Stevens Fellow in the Novel. She is also a nationally and internationally produced playwright. For her body of work for the stage, she has garnered the Windham Campbell Prize for Drama, the Horton Foote Prize, the United States Artists Jane Addams Fellowship, the Flora Roberts Award, and others. She was born and raised in Cumberland, Maryland, and lives in Harlem, New York City. Moon and the Mars is her second novel.