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The Company of Heaven

Stories from Haiti

Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell


Iowa Short Fiction Award Series








The Company of Heaven/Stories from Haiti, Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell • Iowa Press
204 pp., 5 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches • October 2010 • ISBN 978-1-58729-950-6 • $12.00

The Company of Heaven

Kirkus starred review

"Brilliantly evocative contemporary stories about Haiti... Life in Haiti, before the recent earthquake but no less steeped in hardship and spiritual overcoming, is captured in interconnected stories by a gifted Haitian American... The author's empathy for her resilient subjects, and her grasp of the human comedy in depicting the creative ways downtrodden people keep hope alive, makes the book unexpectedly entertaining."

Publishers Weekly

"Lyrical, evocative and lush style carries these stories... The excellent novella , "River Valley Rooms," is a simple tale made complex by its formal daring... Phipps-Kettlewell, whose previous book was verse, brings a poet's sensual acuity to her stories... brings Haiti to vibrant life... truly a collection to treasure."

Charles Henry Rowell, editor, Callaloo

"When I first read Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell's short fiction for publication in Callaloo in 2002, I knew immediately that I was in the presence of an extraordinary fertile imagination that would deliver on its promises: an arresting collection of short stories that would, with eloquence and elegance, keep all of us who encounter her lyricism wondering who we are in this postmodern world. With The Company of Heaven, she has delivered. Neither a formulaic fix nor an ideological bombast, her answer is itself a series of questions turned back to us--that keep us returning to her ur-texts and also to our own lives as if they were metatexts."

Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers

"Reading The Company of Heaven is like happening on a book of Psalms transcribed from some secret, fantastic, harrowed heart, somehow mineralized into language and somehow preserved for us to read."

Edwidge Danticat - Haitian-American Novelist and McArthur Genius Grant winner

"Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell's The Company of Heaven heralds the fiction debut of a brilliant and insightful storyteller. With the sensitivities of the poet and visual artist that she is, Phipps-Kettlewell brings us these lyrical, funny, quirky and memorable stories from the Haiti of both near and far. A book not to be missed, The Company of Heaven takes us both to Heaven and hell, and many places in between, but always with innovation, honesty and grace."

Henry Louis Gates Jr. - Scholar, Author, Director of the W.E. B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University

"These are beautiful, richly textured stories; 'painterly' is the word that describes them best. What might be unbearable sadness after the devastation so recently suffered by Haiti becomes, in Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell’s hands, a testament of hope and resilience, of spirit and celebration. Like the people they are about, these stories will last."

About the Artist

MARILÈNE PHIPPS-KETTLEWELL (formerly Marilène Phipps) is a painter, a poet and a short story writer who was born and grew up in Haiti. She has held fellowships at the Guggenheim Foundation, and at the Bunting Institute, the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research and the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University, and has been a recipient of a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts. In 1993, she won the Grolier prize for poetry.

Her poetry collection Crossroads and Unholy Water (Southern Illinois University Press, 2000) won the 1999 Crab Orchard Poetry Prize. (It was also a finalist for the Walt Whitman prize from the Academy of American Poets.) Her collection The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti won the 2010 Iowa Short Fiction Award, published by the University of Iowa Press.


Her work has appeared in magazines such as Callaloo, Ploughshares and River Styx and in the anthologies Sisters of Caliban: Contemporary Women Poets of the Caribbean (Azul Editions, 1996), The Beacon Best of 1999 (Beacon Press). Her poetry was published in England by Carcanet Press Ltd, England in a 2007 antholgy of 7 poets. Her short fiction was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2003, as well as listed in The Best American Short Stories 2001.


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