Crystelle Mourning

A Novel

Crystelle Mourning

With her well-employed fiancé and a comfortable life in New York City, Crystelle has a life most young professionals would envy. She has come a long way from the rough Philadelphia neighborhood where she grew up. But she hasn't left the past behind her. A ghost from her West Philly days continues to haunt her -- the spirit of her high school sweetheart Jimmie, who she watched get gunned down one unforgettable night years ago. Emotionally distraught from her unsettling memories and the suspicion she may be pregnant, Crystelle goes back to her old neighborhood to reconnect with friends and family. There, with the help of Jimmie's mother, a woman who Crystelle loves like family -- and who makes a prison visit to the young man who murdered her son -- Crystelle can finally come to grips with her past, realizing the power of forgiveness and the need to move on.

A profound and intense story with deeply resonant depictions of urban African American life, Crystelle Mourning is a triumphant, lyrical beginning to a bright new talent in fiction.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743277594 | 
  • September 2007
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Reading Group Guide

Crystelle has a seemingly great life and a bright future. She lives in gentrified Brooklyn with a well-employed fiancée; who wants to make her his wife, and she suspects she might be pregnant. The prospect of becoming a mother and wife, however, along with her recurring dreams of her murdered childhood sweetheart, send her emotions over the edge, and she heads back to her old inner-city Philadelphia neighborhood to face her past.
1. The prologue has a second-person narrator, yet the rest of the book has a third-person omniscient narrator. Why does the author employ a different point of view in the opening pages? Did this affect your involvement in the story?
2. Dreams dominate this story, and a ghost plays a major role. What literary techniques are used to differentiate between dream states and reality, living characters and Jimmie's ghost? Why is Crystelle's spirit such an overwhelming aspect of her characterization?
3. The following appears on page 11: " 'Remember this' her disconnected self said out loud in her head. 'Life feasts on death.' " What does Crystelle mean by this? Would she say this at the end of the novel?
4. On page 53, Crystelle talks about the moths bumping into the light. Who do you think, besides the moths, Crystelle is referring to when she theorizes about why it happens?
5. How do you interpret the actions and dialogue of the homeles see more

About the Author

Eisa Nefertari Ulen
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Eisa Nefertari Ulen

Eisa Nefertari Ulen teaches English at Hunter College in New York City, and her essays have been widely anthologized. Nominated by Essence magazine for a National Association of Black Journalists Award, she has contributed to numerous other publications, including The Washington Post, Ms., Health, and She is the recipient of a Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center Fellowship for Young African American Fiction Writers and a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship. Ulen graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and earned a master's degree from Columbia University. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn.