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The Through

by A. Rafael Johnson

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In The Through, Adrian and her partner Ben navigate the strange and dangerous magic of a black ghost town, Okahika, that exists somewhere between Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the other-world of flying slave ships and mothers back from the dead. This narrative interrogates blackness in the New South, including the ways in which it is haunted and revisited by the old. It also engages with love and trauma, exploring how we keep ourselves hidden and allow ourselves to know each other in our most intimate relationships.

Johnson’s dark magical-realist narrative weaves familial haints, shadows of the transatlantic slave trade, and the black mystical into a liminal world where they are forced to confront themselves, each other, and the powerful anchors of their emotional inheritances.

Praise for The Through

“Johnson writes in a lyrical prose that blends the vernacular voice with crisp images and an ear for music: ‘The area used to be a black neighborhood, but it’s just a vacant lot now. There are no buildings left for a haint to haunt, but if one popped out of the pokeweed berries and said how you be baby, I’d say awrite.’”
– Kirkus Review of Books

“Gripping, lyrical, and fiercely original, The Through is an affecting thriller that defies categorization. Johnson’s prose is spellbinding in this essential book.”
– Alissa Nutting, author of Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls and Made for Love

“Heartbreaking and imaginative from the start, The Through explores the violent histories haunting Tuscaloosans, Adrian and Ben, and it does so without ever losing its humor, magic, or hope. It’s a beautifully executed novel.”
– Renee Simms, author of Meet behind Mars (forthcoming on Wayne State University Press)

“Here is a novel about the hidden universes of being, a richly rewarding book that shows us how history is just above our heads, and the future is just under our feet, if we know how to look.”
– Jeffery Renard Allen, author of the novels Song of the Shank and Rails Under My Back

Podcast Feature

Listen to Johnson in conversation with Lissa Jones on Black Market Reads about genre and how life experience influences the writing process.

Critical Acclaim

The Through was a 2018 Minnesota Book Awards Finalist. Past winners include Louise Erdrich, Marlon James, and Kao Kalia Yang.