Phillip B. Williams | Granta

Phillip B. Williams

Phillip B. Williams is the author of the poetry collections Mutiny, a 2022 American Book Award winner and a 2022 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry finalist, and Thief in the Interior, winner of the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a Lambda Literary Award. He has received a Whiting Award and Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He was born in Chicago and currently lives in Philadelphia.



Phillip B. Williams

In the mid-1800s, Saint, an enigmatic and powerful conjure woman, always flanked by a silent companion, travels the South annihilating plantations and liberating the enslaved by means of purposeful violence and powerful magic. She founds a town for those she has freed – and for them alone. They name the town Ours. Surrounded by an impenetrable magical border raised by Saint’s powers, Ours is invisible to the outer world and sits blissfully away from prying eyes and violent hands. Saint’s mission is to kill slavery – to scourge its damage from the minds of her charges and to keep them safe forever.

Under Saint’s watchful eye and away from the terrible weight of their enslavement, the townsfolk become neighbours, friends and lovers. They build each other’s homes and care for each other’s children. They love and grieve together. Then two mysterious strangers, Frances and Joy, appear, inexplicably crossing the invisible border from the outer world. Saint and Frances are connected by arcane and indivisible threads, and soon Saint’s lost past and fateful present begin to coalesce in ways that will either prove Ours’ salvation or lay it bare to a world that would destroy it.

Phillip B. Williams’ astonishing debut novel is both a sweeping epic shot through with magic, and an intimate, elemental story about what it means to build a community and to try to build a life in the shadow of, and around the damage wrought by, slavery.