Winner of the 1983 National Book Award!

© Joyce Carol Thomas
Hardcover, William Morrow, 1981ISBN 0-8446-7191-6
Paperback, HarperCollins, 1999ISBN 0-3808-1434-X

Fire is Warm

She grew upAbyssinia Jackson didunder a vast Oklahoma sky shaded with pecan trees and dotted by endless rows of cotton-pickers cotton. She had the gift of song, a storyteller's talent, the love of her parents, and the affection and pride of her community.

Fire Can Burn

Then a tornado hits and drives Abby's family apart. A deranged neighbor targets her for a campaign of vengeful terror. And a physical assault all but breaks her will.

Marked by Fire

In this beautifully written first novel, Abby emerges clearly as a young woman who faces pain, laughter, anguish, and joy with the dignity of her heritage and the determination of her spirit.

"I believe this to be an important first novel. Joyce Carol Thomas's characters enact the verities of human life: romance, apprehension, loss, and hope, and they perform on the author's real life stage."

Maya Angelou


Born in the cotton field.
Came here marked, too.
Marked by the fire!
Baptized with the fire!
Foreman built the fire.
Boiled water for the birthing. Patience spread out on her pallet of cotton sacks.
And here comes our baby.
An ember jumped out of the blaze and branded the child.
Marked at birth!
A birthmark.
Placed the new child on a soft sack of cotton.
Laid her in a cotton manger.
A black girl in a manger.

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