John Sayles. A Moment in the Sun. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2011.

This big book takes readers back to the America of the late nineteenth century with all of that period’s optimism, adventurism, technological progress–and its imperialism and racism.  Part of the story takes place in Wilmington, North Carolina where two families–one white, one African American–experience both imperialism and racism in very different ways.  The Manigaults, a powerful white family, resent the changes that the Confederate defeat brought.  The family patriarch, Judge Cornelius Manigault, values his honor and disdains the rabble who are organizing to take back the state for the white man.  Still, in the end the Judge joins forces with the men who are plotting to suppress the African American vote on election day, only to be surprised by the violence that follows.  Dr. Lunceford is the patriarch of an African American family who has made a comfortable place for himself and his family.  Feeling part of this country and yet eager to see the wider world, his son Junior volunteers to fight for America in Cuba.  Neither patriotism nor a life of honor and service will protect the Luncefords; their community in Wilmington will be destroyed.  The Luncefords head north, to New York, and a life of struggle. The judge’s son, Niles, Junior Lunceford, and Junior’s good friend Royal Scott will cross paths in the Philippines;  not all of them will return.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Click here to see documentary material on the election of 1898 in North Carolina.


Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Coast, Historical, New Hanover, Sayles, John

7 Responses to John Sayles. A Moment in the Sun. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2011.

  1. Wow, I have to say that I haven’t seen such a promising book in a long time. Will be finding time to read it, definitely! Thank you for the heads up!

  2. Lol I also have a feeling that this will be a required reading for one of writing classes next year, too! I guess I should get a head-start and buy this book when I can.

  3. This book sound interesting to read I wanna grab this one.


  4. Like your post. Keep it going !!!

  5. Leslie

    I am such a John Sayles fan. I love his movies and his writing. This does sound like an interesting book as well! Thanks for giving some attention to it.. I’m going to check it out. For those of you who are Sayles fans.. hes going to be on the Book Report radio show with Elaine Charles on the 25th interviewing about all the oscars and stuff. Probably commenting a lot on the books turned into to movies because her radio show discusses books. I’m not sure what radio station you can listen to in North Carolina but I know you can get it on her website. or Actually the facebook page will have all the info … hold on…

    ok hope that helps and encourages more sayles fans!!

  6. Kevin

    @Leslie Thanks for the link to the radio show! That was a great interview and the host really caught my attention. Elaine has such a soothing voice and she keeps things exciting. I found the archives section on the site and spent a long time digging through it.

  7. Eileen McGrath

    The book can be purchased from in the Kindle edition.