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Black Bottom Saints

A novel by

An enthralling literary tour-de-force that pays tribute to Detroit's legendary neighborhood, a mecca for jazz, sports, and politics, Black Bottom Saints is a powerful blend of fact and imagination reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow's classic novel Ragtime and Marlon James' Man Booker Award-winning masterpiece, A Brief History of Seven Killings.

From the Great Depression through the post-World War II years, Joseph “Ziggy” Johnson, has been the pulse of Detroit’s famous Black Bottom. A celebrated gossip columnist for the city’s African-American newspaper, the Michigan Chronicle, he is also the emcee of one of the hottest night clubs, where he’s rubbed elbows with the legendary black artists of the era, including Ethel Waters, Billy Eckstein, and Count Basie. Ziggy is also the founder and dean of the Ziggy Johnson School of Theater. But now the doyen of Black Bottom is ready to hang up his many dapper hats.  

As he lays dying in the black-owned-and-operated Kirkwood Hospital, Ziggy reflects on his life, the community that was the center of his world, and the remarkable people who helped shape it.

Inspired by the Catholic Saints Day Books, Ziggy curates his own list of Black Bottom’s venerable "52 Saints." Among them are a vulnerable Dinah Washington, a defiant Joe  Louis, and a raucous Bricktop. Randall balances the stories of these larger-than-life "Saints" with local heroes who became household names, enthralling men and women whose unstoppable ambition, love of style, and faith in community made this black Midwestern neighborhood the rival of New York City’s Harlem.

Accompanying these “tributes” are thoughtfully paired cocktails—special drinks that capture the essence of each of Ziggy’s saints—libations as strong and satisfying as Alice Randall’s wholly original view of a place and time unlike any other.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Alice Randall has done it again! Black Bottom Saints sneaks up on you--telling you the rich story of Black Michigan and Black Detroit in a way that has never been told before. Detroit is not just Motown. Detroit is a stronghold of black America and black culture. This book tells the story. The characters, so rich, the story so strong, so complex. This book is instantly an American classic. Randall is at the top of her form." - Randall Kenan

"Black Bottom Saints is easily the most inventive and musical novel I've read in a decade. Alice Randall has rewritten and re-energized the rules of the American novel!" - Kiese Laymon

"Alice Randall's Black Bottom Saints arrives at a critical moment in our nation's history, and it's exactly the right book for our times--an entertaining and necessary act of hagiography and a singular hybrid of fiction, biography and history. I wish I could have seen Black Bottom in its heyday--and thrown back a cocktail with Ziggy Johnson--but reading Randall's latest novel makes me feel that, actually, I have." - Jay McInerney

"Alice Randall's magical Black Bottom Saints evokes Detroit's legendary Black Bottom, one of America's most influential, artful Black communities. Her 'Caramel Camelot' comes alive in the voice of Ziggy Johnson, whose School of the Theater extravaganzas were actually 'citizenship schools' of self discovery, performance and celebration for Black girls. Ziggy's decades of who's who and what's what weekly columns for the Michigan Chronicle document the 'Saints' whose lives and talents created 'fifty-two paths from trauma to transcendence.' Effervescent, tragic, proud, and immensely compelling, Black Bottom Saints is a must-read-now triumph." - Jayne Anne Phillips

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