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Finding La Negrita by Natasha Gordon-Chipembere

Finding La Negrita by Natasha Gordon Chipembere is a captivating retelling of the Black Madonna narrative, which has driven Costa Rica’s national and spiritual identity since the 1700s. In powerful prose, Natasha Gordon-Chipembere delivers a vivid and intimate living portrait of slavery in this nation, which was radically different than plantation bondage in other parts of the Americas.


Meet Dakarai, a famed African sculptor who must buy his freedom once he is stolen into slavery and separated from his newborn daughter, Jendayi. Her mother has died in childbirth, in the hold of a Middle Passage ship. Husband and child are left to reconcile their grief over her absence and forge a life somehow in the New World. Finding La Negrita spans time and space as it captures Dakarai and Jendayi’s reunion, ripe with the secrets and sacrifices a single father confronts while raising a strong-minded young girl coming of age in an era with a precarious line between freedom and enslavement. In those margins, and unbeknownst to each other, they both dare to pursue dangerous new loves beyond the limits of what colonial society will permit. But at what cost to themselves and each other?…  

And in the midst of all this, a future holy relic is born, under circumstances that could put their freedom, if not their very lives, on the line.

Praises for Finding La Negrita

“A brilliantly written novel of triumph over despair, victory over failure, and clarity over confusion . . . Immensely captivating, and hauntingly beautiful, this novel is sure to establish Natasha Gordon-Chipembere’s book as a major contribution to literature and historical consciousness.”

Molefi Kete Asante, author of the novel Scattered to the Wind

“A powerfully evocative emotional narrative . . . a journey into a community created by free and enslaved Africans and filled with joy, pain, and wisdom.”

Dorothy E. Mosby, Professor of Spanish and Africana Studies at Mount Holyoke College

“Amazing! This is a major contribution to understanding global Blackness experiences. Finding La Negrita is a gem with beautiful passages.”

Frieda Ekotto, Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

“This well-told story is a clarion call for true feminism, an inspiration for women all over the world regardless of age, race, class, ethnicity and gender identities. Evoking the sights, scents and sounds of Costa Rica, Gordon-Chipembere immerses the reader in the untold lives of the freed and enslaved Black people of Costa Rica as well as the mixed-race. Long after the last page of Finding La Negrita is closed, these vividly painted characters will resonate in the hearts and minds of readers. “

Elizabeth Nunez, author of Prospero’s Daughter, Bruised Hibiscus, and Now Lila Knows

In memorable, poetic prose, Natasha Gordon-Chipembere paints a nuanced portrait of 17th century Costa Rica and the delicate balance of power between free Africans, enslaved and enslavers. Centering on the fates of the members of one family, forged as much through kinship as through the forces of circumstance, the work celebrates those deemed unimportant to history and grants them new life within the annals of the novel. Reminiscent in tone and style of early works by Achebe, Dangarembga, and Conde, this is one to read, share, and read again. Not to be missed!

—Myriam J. A. Chancy, author of What Storm, What Thunder

This is a compelling conjuring of La Negrita that takes us deep into the history of enslaved people as they struggle for their loves and freedom. There is so much vision here that shines a light on unspoken stories. Gordon-Chipembere’s is a storyteller who makes connections, who unravels and puts together anew. A vibrant and much needed voice! The characters will steal your heart, leaving you empowered.

—Olúmìdé Pópóọlá, author of When We Speak of Nothing

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