Gone Missing in Harlem
Karla FC Holloway
December 7, 2021
Gone Missing in Harlem by Karla FC Holloway (TriQuarterly 2021) tells the story of an African American family trying to survive the early decades of the twentieth century. The Mosbys leave their life in Sedalia within hours after six-year-old Percy loudly notes that his father’s boss has made a mistake in calculating what is owed. Percy’s parents know what would happen if they stayed. They settle in Harlem, but the Spanish flu is raging around the globe, and Percy’s father doesn’t survive. His mother, DeLilah, is pregnant with Selma. Years later, Percy witnesses a murder in New York, and DeLilah sends him back to Sedalia. She does her best to make a home for her daughter, but Selma’s childhood is cut short when a brutal rape leaves her pregnant. After her baby is kidnapped, the city’s first ‘colored policeman’, Weldon Haynie Thomas, vows that this kidnapping will not end like the Lindbergh kidnapping. Gone Missing in Harlem touches upon many things, including African American soldiers coming home from WWI, the Great Migration north, and the world of 1930’s Harlem. Gone Missing in Harlem is historical, African American literary fiction and a mystery, but it’s ultimately a novel about the lengths a mother will go to protect her family.
Karla FC Holloway, Ph.D., M.L.S., is James B. Duke Professor Emerita of English and Professor of Law at Duke University. She is former Dean of Humanities and Social Science Faculty at Duke. Her research and teaching focused on African American cultural studies, bioethics, literature, and law. Her national and institutional board memberships have included the Greenwall Foundation’s Advisory Board in Bioethics, the Trent Center for Bioethics and Humanities, the North Carolina Humanities Council, the College Board, and the Hastings Center. She is a co-founder of Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Center for International and Interdisciplinary Studies and founding co-director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. Professor Holloway is the recipient of national awards and foundation fellowships including the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Residency Fellowship and the Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellowship at Harvard University’s Du Bois Institute. Professor Holloway is the author of over fifty essays and ten books including Codes of Conduct: Race, Ethics and the Color of Our Character (1995), Passed On: African American Mourning Stories (2002), BookMarks: Reading in Black and White (2006), and Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature (2014).
In her emerita years she has shifted to fiction and has published A Death in Harlem (2019) and Gone Missing in Harlem (2021) both with Triquarterly. She’s at work on the final book in the “in Harlem” series, A Haunting in Harlem, and tweets on bioethics, law, society, and popular cultures from @ProfHolloway. When she’s not tweeting, or writing, she’s deep into reading fiction or painting miniature acrylic landscapes and abstract compositions. Anything, she says, with colors that swirl into cerulean.