The Book of Colors: A Novel

Young Adult, General Fiction

By Raymond Barfield

Publisher : Unbridled Books

ABOUT Raymond Barfield

Raymond Barfield
Raymond Barfield is a pediatric oncologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.  He also teaches philosophy in Duke's Divinity School.  He has published a book of poetry called Life In the Blind Spot, as well as a book of philosophy from Cambridge University Presscalled The Anci More...


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."

Raymond Barfield is a pediatric oncologist at Duke University School of Medicine and an associate professor of philosophy at Duke Divinity School. 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. Ray says he has met Yslea many times and her voice is embedded in his head.

The Book of Colors


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“Yslea is a keen-eyed young woman with a wandering mind who picks up on fine details of the little things of life…. A beautifully written debut”—BOOKLIST

“In the traditions of Toni Morrison and Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Barfield presents a gorgeous and dismaying human tapestry from the edges of Southern society. … An ethereal story of poverty and redemption that ends with a phoenix-like flourish and abounds with grace.” — Foreword Reviews

“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. 

“Barfield’s The Book of Colors is a remarkable debut, a story told by a young woman whose nearly-perfect voice evokes Flannery O’Connor’s characters when they are simultaneously in a state of chaos and grace.” — Wayne Caldwell

“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

“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