The Book of Colors (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Warning: This book may cause you to fall in love with the world again. In language both simple and beautiful, Barfield, a poet doctor, tells the remarkable story of five impoverished people (and a donkey named Jesus) living by the train tracks in Memphis who find love and grace in their everyday lives. —Michaela

— From Michaela's Picks


How can a 19-year-old, mixed-race girl who grew up in a crack house and is now pregnant be so innocent? Yslea is full of contradictions, though, seeming both young and old, innocent and wise. Her spirit is surprising, given all the pain she has endured, and that's the counterpoint this story offers--while she sees pain and suffering all around her, Yslea overcomes in her own quiet way. What Yslea struggles with is expressing her thoughts. And she wonders if she will have something of substance to say to her baby. It's the baby growing inside her that begins to wake her up, that causes her to start thinking about things in a different way. Yslea drifts into the lives of four people who occupy three dilapidated row houses along the train tracks outside of Memphis: "The way their three little row houses sort of leaned in toward each other and the way the paint peeled and some of the windows were covered with cardboard, the row might as easily have been empty.

About the Author

Dr. Raymond Barfield is a pediatric oncologist at Duke University School of Medicine and Associate Professor of philosophy at Duke Divinity School. He also works with the Institute on Care at the End of Life at Duke Divinity School--the Institute's work crosses disciplines and focuses on the intersection of spirituality and medicine. Ray has a book out from Cambridge University Press, The Ancient Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy, and he's working on a nonfiction trade book that explores the intersection of spirituality, philosophy and science. He also has a book of poetry that was just published in October. It's his work with low-income African American children at Duke University Hospital and his previous experience in the ERs of Atlanta and Memphis inner-city hospitals that make him so familiar with the protagonist in The Book of Colors.

Praise For…

“Yslea’s world is small, but it embraces an immense universe of wonderments, bright emotions, slant thoughts and patterns that only she can discover. In The Book of Colors Raymond Barfield reveals a story like no other I have experienced, inexorably dark in circumstance but triumphantly luminous in spirit. ‘We are made up of pieces but somehow we feel whole.’ That wholeness is celebrated in these brave pages. They seized upon me like an angelic visitation. What a wonderful novel!” — Fred Chappell

“I just finished THE BOOK OF COLORS. I cried at the end, which I almost never do, not because it was sad but because it was so sweet and clear and beautifully written ... different in a really wonderful way.”— Cathy Langer, The Tattered Cover bookstore.

“I was lucky enough to see the first draft of The Book of Colors, and the beautiful strength of both the author and the main character has stayed with me a very long time. Kudos to Unbridled for bringing two powerful voices to light.” — Carl Lennertz
Product Details
ISBN: 9781609531157
ISBN-10: 1609531159
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication Date: May 12th, 2015
Pages: 224
Language: English