Julian Lucas is a regular contributor to The New York Review. (February 2019)


The Great Assimilationists

A lithograph of the Siamese twins Chang and Eng, along with their wives and children, 1860

Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History

by Yunte Huang

The Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam’s Twins in Nineteenth-Century America

by Joseph Andrew Orser
A “monster” debuts in a tent show and becomes an overnight sensation. Gawkers jostle for a viewing, journalists angle for takes; in the crowd, expressions of reverent fascination vie with cynical dismissals and racist prurience. The monster says little, but the multiplying chatter tells its own story about the country …

Fatal Beauty

Scholastique Mukasonga, New York City, 2016


by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated from the French by Jordan Stump

Our Lady of the Nile

by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated from the French by Melanie Mauthner
Helena is the most beautiful girl in Rwanda. She has everything: a bevy of admiring suitors, lace garments and high-heeled shoes, skin-lightening creams from Nigeria, and a coveted spot at Notre-Dame-de-Cîteaux, Kigali’s finest lycée. The white teachers adore her, one so distractedly that he pronounces her—in a whisper the other …

Southern Sublime

Morning, Paramin

by Derek Walcott and Peter Doig
No one has scrutinized the Caribbean with more devotion, sensitivity, and protectiveness than Derek Walcott, a St. Lucian poet, playwright, and painter who has made its landscape the touchstone of his art. He flew to Montreal in 2014 for Peter Doig’s exhibition “No Foreign Lands,” urged by the French editor Harry Jancovici, who after reading Walcott on Caribbean painting proposed a joint project. It began with the artist steering Walcott through the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, watching from behind his wheelchair as he evaluated each painting, inaugurating the series of exchanges that would become Morning, Paramin.

New Black Worlds to Know

Jacob Lawrence: from the series The Migration of the Negro, 1940–1941

The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad isn’t the modern slave narrative it first appears to be. It is something grander and more piercing, a dazzling antebellum anti-myth in which the fugitive’s search for freedom—now so marketable and familiar—becomes a kind of Trojan horse. Crouched within it are the never-ending nightmares of slavery’s aftermath: the bloody disappointments, usually sidelined by film and fiction, that took place between the Civil War and civil rights. In Whitehead’s hands the runaway’s all-American story—grit, struggle, reward—becomes instead a grim Voltairean odyssey, a subterranean journey through the uncharted epochs of unfreedom.

Ambush, Night & Day

Marlon James at Jumel Terrace Books, Sugar Hill, Harlem, September 2014

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by Marlon James
If hell were a place on earth, a Bob Marley concert in Jamaica isn’t the first place you’d expect to find it. But perspective is everything. Bam-Bam, the first character to die in Marlon James’s new novel, has been running for two days when he reaches the show, held in …


Teju Cole: At the Border of the Visible

Teju Cole: Zürich, July 2015

Conceived after Teju Cole suffered an attack of papillophlebitis, or “big blind spot syndrome,” in 2011, “Blind Spot” and its companion volume of the same title complete what he calls “a quartet about the limits of vision.” It combines the omnivorous erudition of his 2016 essay collection Known and Strange Things with the associative structure of Every Day is for the Thief (2007) and Open City (2011), peripatetic novels set, respectively, in Lagos and New York. The show is a record of Cole’s extensive travels between 2011 and 2017, but it is less concerned with his own itinerary than with the paths of others.