The Chinaberry Tree
A Novel of American Life
Adultery, incest, and questions of racial identity simmer beneath the tranquil surface of suburban life in this novel, set in a small New Jersey town of the early 1900s. Lovely young Laurentine is obsessed with her "bad blood," inherited from a common-law interracial union. Proud and independent, she longs for the respectability of a conventional marriage. Laurentine's vivacious and self-confident cousin, Melissa, also aspires to "marry up." But a family secret shadows Melissa's dreams and ambitions as she approaches an explosive revelation. African-American editor, poet, essayist, and novelist Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882–1961) was a prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. An editor of the NAACP magazine The Crisis, she was also an editor and co-author of the African-American children's magazine, The Brownies' Book. Her third novel, The Chinaberry Tree, draws upon elements of Greek tragedy in its powerful depiction of interracial love and marriage. The tale also offers a modern perspective on the struggle of its African-American heroines toward self-knowledge.