By Rachel M. Harper

Paperback | $16
ISBN 978-1-938849-76-3
Ebook also available
ISBN 978-1-938849-77-0
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PREVIEW THIS SIDE OF PROVIDENCE: This Side of Providence—Chapter One


“It is a book of such power that it is as if a completely new layer of the American experience has been exposed to our view…
not one line is wasted and every single word rings true.”
Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Color Purple

Arcelia Perez fled Puerto Rico to escape a failed marriage and a history of abuse, but instead of finding her piece of the American dream, she ends up on the wrong side of Providence. With three young children, Arcelia follows a rocky path that ultimately leads to prison and an agonizing drug withdrawal. But her real challenge comes when she’s released and must figure out how to stay clean and reunite the family that has unraveled in her absence.

Through rotating narrators, we hear from the characters whose lives and futures are inextricably linked with Arcelia’s own uncertain fate: her charming, street-savvy son, Cristo, and brilliant daughter Luz; their idealistic teacher, Miss Valentín, who battles her own demons; and the enigmatic Snowman, her landlord and confidante.

This powerful story of hope and redemption reveals the un- acknowledged side of one of our oldest American cities, where even the bleakest of realities can’t destroy the bonds between parent and child. Rich in humanity, This Side of Providence is a novel of exceptional force and originality.

Update: The Women’s National Book Association has just chosen This Side of Providence as a 2016 Great Group Reads book.

Attention book clubs! Download a Readers’ Group Guide here.

About the Author

Rachel M. Harper’s first novel, Brass Ankle Blues, was chosen as one of Borders’ Best Original Voices and selected as a Target Breakout Book. Her poems and short fiction have been published in The Carolina Review, Chicago Review, African American Review, Prairie Schooner, and the anthology Mending the World: Stories of Family by Contemporary Black Writers, and she has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. A Los Angeles resident, Harper is on the faculty of Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program.

Harper Photo small USE THIS

Praise for Providence

“So beautifully written and incredibly compelling that I found myself not wanting to do anything but sit inside this world until everyone turned out all right. Rachel Harper is a stunning writer.” — Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Miracle’s Boys

“This powerful story about what it means to be a family and the struggles members endure to stay together will appeal to fans of Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Heather Gudenkauf, and dramatic family-centric fiction.” — Library Journal

“Luminous, heartbreaking, and profoundly redemptive… a hauntingly beautiful novel about the unbreakable bonds between a wounded mother and the children she tries to love. Harper brings her distinct blend of clarity and compassion to these wonderful pages, echoing the structural ingenuity of William Faulkner and the passionate intelligence of James Baldwin.” — Rebecca Walker, author of Áde, A Love Story

“Hope is hard-won here, but the story of Arcelia’s family is powerful.” — Publishers Weekly

“A kaleidoscopic novel about poverty and addiction and immigration and growing up and so many more things… excellently done.” — Entomology of a Bookworm

“A truly remarkable novel. Rachel Harper writes with jagged grace and unflinching courage—a willingness to confront fear and pain through characters beautifully alive with feeling, truth, and compassion.”— Scott O’Connor, author of Half World and Untouchable

“Here is a novel that can save lives… I’ll never forget these characters, or this novel.” — Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife, Four Spirits, and The Fountain of St. James Court, or Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

“What is most outstanding is Harper’s ability to demonstrate the goodness inherent within the characters in spite of [the] choices they struggle with.” — Bookisshh

“An ambitious, beautifully written, heartfelt novel that demonstrates the centrality of family under the most arduous of conditions.” —Jervey Tervalon, author of Understand This and Monster’s Chef

“A stunning achievement—I did not want this novel to end, but when it did, I felt a rush of cathartic joy.”  —K. L. Cook, author of The Girl from Charnelle and Love Songs for the Quarantined

“Harper’s great achievement is that of choirmaster: the arrangement of timbre and pace and keeping the voices honest and clear, and somehow pitched toward love.” — Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

“This gorgeous book balances the gritty with the good-hearted, reminding us that only what is dark and difficult can give rise to redemption.” — Neela Vaswani, author of You Have Given Me a Country