In Now Lila Knows, Elizabeth Nunez has crafted an indelible saga, one that is both of the times and timeless; both personal and universal. This beautifully, masterfully written novel is at once a compelling love story, a crucial exploration of the contemporary immigrant experience, and a trenchant critique of American racism.”
—Mitchell S. Jackson, Pulitzer Prize winner, author of The Residue Years
"The latest novel by Elizabeth Nunez offers a thrilling and timely perspective on the immigrant experience, racism and injustice in the contemporary U.S."
—Ms. Magazine, included in 2022 Reads for the Rest of Us roundup
“Now Lila Knows is one woman’s confrontation of the responsibility to speak out against wrongdoing, even when the person she loves most is telling her not to. This is a story of a woman finding her voice — and in that, her power.”
—Buzzfeed, one of 17 Books from Independent Publishers You Need to Read This Summer
"Powerful in message . . . An engaging, warm-hearted, page-turner of a novel."
—New West Indian Guide
“Timely and essential, Now Lila Knows is a luminous story of discovery and the consequences of being Black in America.”
—Bernice L. McFadden, author of The Book of Harlan
“Now Lila Knows is a tale of empathy that comes at the necessary cost, however delayed, of losing one’s innocence, of trading it for a harsher, more urgent reality. By encircling the reader in what they might think they know—about America, about the Caribbean, and the spaces in between—Elizabeth Nunez challenges us to answer for ourselves not only what we know, but also what we are prepared to do. The magic of this novel is that it opens a window to Black life in America through the eyes of an immigrant. A must read.”
—Kevin Adonis Browne, OCM Bocas Prize winner, author of High Mas
Praise for Elizabeth Nunez:
"Nunez is one of the finest and most necessary voices in contemporary American and Caribbean fiction."
Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
"Nunez has always had the power to get to the essence of what makes human beings take right and wrong turns."
Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World
"King Lear in the Caribbean—except in this novel, the flattery and deceit of Glynis (Goneril) and Rebecca (Regan) lose out to the principled, honest love of their younger sister, Corinne (Cordelia)."
—O, the Oprah Magazine, 10 Titles to Pick Up Now, on Even in Paradise
"An epic tale of family betrayal and manipulation couched in superbly engaging prose and peopled with deftly drawn characters. In a story structure as rhythmic as the ebb and flow of the water surrounding Trinidad and Barbados, this revisiting of the classic story of King Lear [is a] dazzling, epic triumph." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on Even in Paradise
Not for Everyday Use won the 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction and was long-listed for the 2015 OCM Bocas Prize in Nonfiction
"Nunez ponders the cultural, racial, familial, social, and personal experiences that led to what she ultimately understands was a deeply loving union between her parents. A beautifully written exploration of the complexities of marriage and family life." —Booklist, starred review, on Not for Everyday Use
"[A] narrative that feels like a close friend talking about her past . . . An insightful, generous story." —Oprah.com, on Not for Everyday Use
Boundaries was a finalist for the 2012 NAACP Image Award in Literature
"Many moments of elegant, overarching insight bind the personal to the collective past." —New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice, on Boundaries
"Nunez deftly dissects the immigrant experience in light of cultural traditions that impact family roles, professional obligations, and romantic opportunities." —Booklist, on Boundaries
Anna In-Between won the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award and was long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
"A psychologically and emotionally astute family portrait, with dark themes like racism, cancer, and the bittersweet longing of the immigrant." —New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice, on Anna In-Between
"Nunez . . . has created a moving and insightful character study while delving into the complexities of identity politics. Highly recommended." —Library Journal, starred review, on Anna In-Between
After witnessing a Black man shot by police in Vermont, a Caribbean professor tries to decide whether to take action.
When Lila Bonnard arrives in a small, predominantly White Vermont town, her fiance warns her “not to get involved in America’s racial problem.” On the way from the airport to the apartment where she’ll stay for a year’s teaching appointment, though, Lila witnesses police shoot and kill a Black man attempting to resuscitate a White woman. Before she understands what’s happened, Lila is involved. The few Black faculty members are eager for Lila to come forward with what she knows. The man who was killed, Ron Brown, had been a professor at the college and a friend of theirs. But Lila, an immigrant, is frightened of the ramifications of speaking out, and her fiance continues to warn against her involvement. Nunez’s latest novel, though it occasionally takes on the pacing and the plotting of a thriller—someone slips a threatening, unsigned note under Lila’s door—is essentially a quiet account of one woman’s gradual awakening. As a Black Caribbean, Lila’s experience and understanding of racism differ rather drastically from those of her new African American colleagues. The novel traces her growing understanding of the dynamics at play in American racism. Along those lines, Nunez’s prose is thoughtful, nuanced, and unrushed. But there are minor moments that feel improbable—not because the events described are outlandish, but because characters appear to respond to situations in ways that seem unlikely. Minutes after seeing Brown shot dead, for example, Lila has a casual conversation with her landlady in which she mentions, “My grandmother loves the soaps, especially General Hospital. You can’t speak to her when General Hospital is on.” Then, too, not all Nunez’s characters are painted with the same fine brush as Lila, and the dialogue often feels stilted. Still, as a portrait of Lila’s political and racial awakening, the novel is a grand success.
A nuanced portrait of a Caribbean woman’s gradual enlightenment.