Cion by Zakes Mda
A Novel

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A Picador Paperback Original

The hero of Zakes Mda's beloved Ways of Dying, Toloki, sets down with a family in Middle America and uncovers the story of the runaway slaves who were their ancestors.

Toloki, the professional mourner, has come to live in America. Lured to Athens, Ohio, by an academic at the local university, Toloki makes friends with an angry young man he meets at a Halloween parade and soon falls in love with the young man's sister. Toloki endears himself to a local quilting group and his quilting provides a portal to the past, a story of two escaped slaves seeking freedom in Ohio.

Making their way north from Virginia with nothing but their mother's quilts for a map, the boys hope to find a promised land where blacks can live as free men. Their story alternates with Toloki's, as the two narratives cast a new light on America in the twenty-first century and on an undiscovered legacy of the Underground Railroad.


About Zakes Mda

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Zakes Mda is a professor of creative writing at Ohio University. He has been a visiting professor at both Yale and the University of Vermont. Among his novels, The Heart of Redness (FSG, 2002) won the Richard Wright Zora Neale Hurston Legacy Award. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Athens, Ohio.
Published March 14, 2003 by Picador. 312 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, Action & Adventure. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Cion

Kirkus Reviews

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Mda (The Whale Caller, 2005, etc.) is at his matchless best when rendering both the stories “told” by the quilts (e.g., of the Queen’s sons Nicodemus and Abednego, runaway slaves who met diametrically different fates) and depicting the employment of the quilts (in accordance with African traditio...

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Entertainment Weekly

Toloki, a ''professional mourner'' in South Africa who spends his days attending funerals, lands in the U.S. and settles outside Athens, Ohio, as the guest of the Quigley family.

Aug 20 2007 | Read Full Review of Cion: A Novel

ABC Perth

While other black South African playwrights championed revolutionary struggle and collective power, Mda created a Beckett-like world of irony and futility.

Jun 30 2008 | Read Full Review of Cion: A Novel

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