THE NEW Novel from kimbilio Fellow KIM COLEMAN FOOTE

Coleman Hill is the exhilarating story of two American families whose fates become intertwined in the wake of the Great Migration. Braiding fact and fiction, it is a remarkable, character-rich tour de force exploring the ties that bind three generations.

In 1916, Celia Coleman and Lucy Grimes flee the racism and poverty of their homes in the post–Civil War South for the “Promised Land” of the North. But soon they learn that even in Vauxhall, New Jersey, black women are mainly hired for domestic work, money is scarce, children don’t progress in school, and black men die young.

Within a few short years, both women’s husbands are dead. Left to navigate this unwelcoming place alone, Celia and Lucy turn to one another for support in raising their children far from home. They become one another’s closest confidantes and, encouraged by their mothers’ friendship, their children’s lives become enmeshed as well. However, with this closeness comes complication. As the children grow into adolescence, two are caught in an impulsive act of impropriety, and Celia and Lucy find themselves at irreconcilable odds over who’s to blame. The ensuing fallout has dire consequences that reverberate through the next two generations of their families.

A stunning biomythography—a word coined by the late great writer Audre Lorde—Coleman Hill draws from the author’s own family legend, historical record, and fervent imagination to create an unforgettable new history.



Kim Coleman Foote was born and raised in New Jersey, where she started writing fiction at the age of seven(ish). A recent fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, she has received additional fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Bread Loaf, Phillips Exeter Academy, Center for Fiction, and Fulbright, and residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, and Hedgebrook, among others. She is also a proud member of the inaugural class of Kimbilio fellows. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2022The RumpusPrairie Schooner, the Missouri ReviewThe Literary ReviewKweli, and ObsidianColeman Hill is her first book.

A photo of author Kim Foote

Five Questions for Kim Coleman Foote

Voice. And quite literally, a voice—which is not typical for me when writing fiction. I had an assignment for one of my MFA classes to write a story from a photograph, and I chose one of my grandfather’s three sisters as children. The one in the middle was known as “evil” as an adult, and her fierce look in the photo seemed like early confirmation. Then I heard her child’s voice: “I ain’t afraid of that man or his camera.” She didn’t stop speaking until minutes later, after I’d frantically jotted down a backstory for that photo. And she no longer felt evil. I tried to use other photos to channel more ancestors but never had that exact experience again. So I built the rest of Coleman Hill by drawing from details gleaned from family oral stories, family artifacts, and genealogical research.

One section of the novel is based on a family anecdote about a murder plot. When my mother and her sisters and cousins were young children, they sat around one day discussing ways to kill their grandmother. In the fictionalized world of Coleman Hill, the children actually make the attempts—and that was the easy part for me. Their grandmother, who they called Gra’ Coleman, terrorized them so much that I’d always itched to go back in time and have a throw-down with her. But “How to Kill Gra’ Coleman…” took me four years to finish, because when I got to page two, I burst into tears after describing Gra’ Coleman’s senselessly beating of one of her granddaughters. I was only able to finish during the month I spent in the nurturing environment of a writing residency.

Octavia Butler tops the list. I’ve read almost every book she wrote and have loved most, with Dawn being my favorite. Butler’s speculative scenarios are like sociological experiments, often placing black women in powerful positions and challenging others to acknowledge their leadership and wisdom. I love Ayi Kwei Armah’s novels for his fiery criticism of colonialism and neocolonialism in West Africa and for his vivid descriptions of filth (I can still see that latrine in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born). I also greatly admire Gloria Naylor for her brilliant mind and was absolutely awed by Mama Day and Linden Hills.

My fourth-grade teacher, Jill Fried, because she introduced me to creative writing. She assigned us mini stories based on one-line prompts and had us writing haikus and other poetry. Around that time, I wrote my first completely independent story. I also started a novel inspired by Mrs. Fried’s son and his new pet hamster, and she was tickled when I shared some of it with her. It’s taken me many years since then to fulfill my dream of publishing a book, but I might not have even started writing without having that early exposure and encouragement.

Maisy Card’s novel, These Ghosts are Family, and Asako Serizawa’s story collection, Inheritors. Both are in conversation with Coleman Hill in that they pay careful attention to language and craft and for the similar ways in which they interrogate memory, racial identity, intergenerational trauma, and marginalized histories—Jamaica and its legacy of slavery, and Japan and the impact of World War II, respectively.