A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BUZZ PICK
A lyrical debut novel that asks what we owe to our families, what we owe to our ancestors, and what we owe to ourselves. Janelle M. Williams’s Gone Like Yesterday employs magical realism to explore the majestic and haunting experience of being a Black woman in today’s America.
Gone Like Yesterday follows two Black women--Zahra, a listless college prep coach, and Sammie, a teenage girl and budding activist soon off to college--who are drawn to each other through the songs of gypsy moths. Gypsy moths have been singing the songs of Zahra’s ancestors to her for years, so when Zahra realizes that Sammie might be a moth person too, their paths become intertwined.
Then, the unthinkable happens: Zahra’s brother, Derrick, goes missing. Derrick has always been different—sensitive and connected to the spiritual world, he has been drifting from Zahra and her family for some time. But this time feels different. Zahra is panicked that he may really be gone for good, lost to her forever.
Zahra can’t let that happen. So, she, along with Sammie, embarks on a road trip from New York to Atlanta, Zahra’s hometown, in search of Zahra’s brother, but also to uncover just what the moths and their ancestors want with them, and what to do about their individual and collective futures.
Sharp and wholly original, Gone Like Yesterday is a novel about family and legacy but also a literary exploration of racial identity, self, and what it means to be found.
About the Author
Janelle M. Williams received her BA from Howard University and her MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville College. She is the recipient of Prairie Schooner's Lawrence Foundation Award for her story, "From the Closest Waffle House." She was a 2017 Kimbilio Fiction Fellow, and her flash fiction story "Harlem Thunder" was longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50 in 2020. Her work has appeared in The Normal School, Shenandoah, Passages North, Split Lip Magazine, and Lunch Ticket, among others. She is currently the Director of Programs and Outreach at Writopia Lab. Gone Like Yesterday is her debut novel.
"There's so much music in the engrossing pages of Gone Like Yesterday—in the songs of mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, would-be lovers, and the ancestors who watch over us. With lyricism and precision, Janelle M. Williams deftly captures the complicated beauty and chaos within our deepest relationships. A magical, mesmerizing debut!"
—Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
“What a magnificent narrative about a girl who only seems to be average! This novel is a terrific mix of family drama, the perils of relationships, and the power of perception. I loved every word. Read this book immediately!”
—Brendan Slocumb, author of The Violin Conspiracy and the upcoming The Symphony of Secrets
"Mesmerizing. . . . Williams has a keen eye for detail and a lyrical voice, and her exploration of personal and collective histories is marked by maturity and compassion. The magic of the novel’s moths is truly imaginative . . . [A] profoundly beautiful novel that takes legacy seriously, from a promising new writer.”
“Williams melds a ghost story with a frank reflection on the complexities of Black identity in her vivid if didactic debut…This is worth a look.”