Kirsten Imani Kasai
ISBN 978-0-9984634-1-4, paperback, 275 pp., $24.95, February 21, 2018
The House of Erzulie tells the eerily intertwined stories of an ill-fated young couple in the 1850s and the troubled historian who discovers their writings in the present day.
Emilie Saint-Ange, daughter of a Creole slaveowning family in Louisiana, rebels against her parents by embracing spiritualism and advocating the abolition of slavery. Isidore, her biracial, French-born husband, is horrified by the brutalities of plantation life and becomes unhinged by an obsessive affair with a notorious New Orleans vodou practitioner.
Emilie’s and Isidore’s letters and journals are interspersed with sections narrated by Lydia Mueller, an architectural historian whose fragile mental health further deteriorates as she reads.
Imbued with a sense of the uncanny and the surreal, The House of Erzulie also alludes to the very real horrors of slavery as it draws on the long tradition of the African-American Gothic novel.
KIRSTEN IMANI KASAI, a feminist author with Southern roots, has published in a range of literary styles, including the speculative fiction novels Ice Song and Tattoo (both from Random House). She is the publisher and editor of Body Parts Magazine and has an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles.
Cover design: Whitney Pearce. Photography: Alanna Airitam. Model: Safiya Quinley.
Press Coverage and Author Events
Editors’ Choice, Historical Novels Review
Must-read lists: These New and Upcoming Books by Black Authors Will Give You Life in These Perilous Times (The Root); Great Listens from African American Authors (Audible); Dark & Delicious Reads by Women of Color (Duende District); 7 Magical Novels About Witches (Hachette Book Group); Fiction Must Reads in 2018 (Bitch Media); Books by Women of Color to Read in 2018 (Electric Literature); Most-Anticipated Books for February (The Millions)
Novel excerpts: The Nervous Breakdown
Author appearances: Antioch University Los Angeles: Literary UpRising; NEA Big Read discussion panel (Mysterious Galaxy Books, San Diego); Vermin on the Mount (La Bodega Gallery, San Diego); Bluestockings Bookstore (New York); Duende District (Washington DC)
Praise for The House of Erzulie
“Skillfully blends an atmosphere of hallucinatory tension with well-researched explorations into 19th-century beliefs.”— Library Journal
“Kasai weaves a spellbinding tale … that brims with masterful, uncanny language … while also delving into more complex topics like generational trauma and the horrors of slavery.”— Foreword Reviews
“A fascinating and surreal look into troubled minds.… Kasai’s settings are lush, and her sometimes-brutal tale is compulsive stuff…. The House of Erzulie left me besotted.”— Historical Novels Review
“A propulsive read, full of commentary on ethnic identity, mental illness, and power.”— Booklist
“Sits on the shelf with Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca: restless ghosts, body horror, dastardly secrets, loves that should not be…. The House of Erzulie privileges the spaces of dreams, imagination, and sexual ecstasy.”—Katharine Coldiron, in Adroit Journal
“Blurs the edges between dream and reality, madness and magic, beauty and brutality, darkness and desire, with an unflinching eye and lush, deeply visceral language.”
— Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis and The Selfless Bliss of the Body
“A poetic exploration of the mysteries of love and desire. Intriguing and compelling at every turn, the novel confronts an awful truth about slavery and brings to light a little-discussed facet of African American history.”
— Maisha Wester, author of African American Gothic: Screams from Shadowed Places
“From sensuality/passion to the stark cruelties of slavery, Kasai weaves her word magic from the first page to the final page. You will enter this world, and emerge changed.” — Alma Luz Villanueva, author of Song of the Golden Scorpion