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ISBN: 978-1-73233-406-9
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Categories Chapbooks, Fiction, Nomadic

By the Lemon Tree

Publication Date: September 2018


In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. By the Lemon Tree was originally published by Nomadic.

Set in the Central California countryside and the Southern California desert, By the Lemon Tree’s old school stories chronicle the collision of wide-eyed childhood with the end of lives human and animal.


“Keenan Norris has struck gold in the state of today’s California. These absorbing stories concern a rich cast of multi-generational African American characters–from “field” to “street” to “churchin” to school-bookish to innocent to wise characters who are likable and relatable. At heart by the lemon tree is a tender homage to a familial network that has stories to tell at the end of the long day, and damn good ones.”
Stephen D. Gutierrez, American Book Award winner

There is no single ideal of American fiction, but there are books that capture the many essences of this country–the geography of the land, the weather, the layers of civilization and punishment and possibility and loss that rests over and under all of our cities and small towns,the ways in which the past is always coming upon us and why the future is both a confusion and a romance. Inby the lemon treeKeenan Norris crafts stories that hold these essences in each sentence and scene and we find our self in central California, hot and wild and funny and tragic and captivated in a way only the best stories can.by the lemon tree gives the reader an intimate and immediate connection to the African American experience in central California, the child’s experience in the land of adults, the lovelorn in the land of cynics, and these are experiences that will linger with readers long after these stories come together and go apart.
Laleh Khadivi, author of A Good Country

An emotional electricity drives this compelling collection of stories that chronicles the fading lives of a once vibrant black community.Norris proves himself to be a remarkable artist with these stories on loss, race and family that are in turn lyrical, witty and haunting.A fantastic read.
Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times Bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin Books)

About the Author

© Akubundu Amazu-Lott

Keenan Norris

Keenan Norris is a novelist, essayist and scholar. He has been the recipient of the 2022 Northern California Book Award in Fiction, the 2021-22 National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award in Music, Theater and Performing Arts, the 2021 Folio: Eddie Award for Best Overall Article and the 2012 James D. Houston Award. His novels include The Confession of Copeland Cane and Brother and the Dancer. In 2023, Keenan published the book of essays Chi Boy: Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings and the novella Lustre. Keenan has served as 2023 Lannan Visiting Writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts and 2021 Rea Visiting Writer at the University of Virginia. He is coordinator of the Steinbeck Fellows Program at San Jose State University and serves as California guest editor and contributing scholar to the Oxford African-American Studies Center. Keenan's feature pieces and articles have appeared in numerous forums, including the Los Angeles Review of Books, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, TED-ED and Alta, while his short fiction has been published in several anthologies of California literatureHe is an Associate Professor at San Jose State University.

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