Cora’s Kitchen

2022 Story Circle’s Sarton Women’s Book Award winner for Historical Fiction. Winner of the 2022 Foreword Reviews INDIE Award for Multicultural Fiction book of the year. Finalist in the 2016 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize as well as the 2018 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Now available from Inanna Publications.

Cora James, a 35-year-old Black librarian in Harlem, dreams of being a writer. Torn between her secret passion and the duties of a working wife and mother in 1928, Cora strikes up correspondence with renowned poet Langston Hughes, who encourages her to pursue her dream. Duty frustrates Cora again, this time when she’s called upon to fill in for her cousin Agnes while she recovers from a brutal beating by her husband Bud.

Working as a cook for a white woman, Cora discovers both time to write and an unlikely ally in Mrs. Eleanor Fitzgerald, who becomes friend, confidante, and patron, encouraging Cora to rise above what’s commonly thought of as “a woman’s lot.” Yet, through a series of startling developments in her dealings with the white family, Cora’s journey to becoming a writer takes her to the brink of losing everything, including her life.


“…powerful….Brown speaks to timeless struggles of women who had ambitions that reached beyond traditional expectations. Moreover, Brown crafts Cora as an incredibly perceptive narrator and foregrounds race-related issues through an absorbing plotline with some unexpected turns….An affecting novel of female friendship and a desire for independence.”

— KIRKUS Reviews  (read full review)


“All told, Cora’s Kitchen is a masterful look at the many ways in which racism, classism and misogyny overlap and oppress.”

— The Indypendent (read full review)


Kimberly Garrett Brown has written an outstanding novel which rings true as a depiction of a budding writer and conveys an important message about overlapping, concurrent forms of oppression.”

— Compulsive Reader  (read full review)


“Cora’s Kitchen is a quick, but richly told read; full of emotion and heart, and one in which every woman can relate, especially if she aspires for something more for herself.”

— Tar Heel Reader (read full review)


“The inequities of womanhood come across clear and strong in Cora’s Kitchen by Kimberly Garrett Brown. And how timely for this book to come out now…. Brown’s story digs much deeper than the plight of women. It gets down to the plight of self-preservation in a society bent on suppression, not solely based on gender, but also on class, money, and specifically color. “

— Story Circle Book Reviews  (read full review)


“Cora is an extremely sympathetic character, a deep thinker who faces reality and yet is aware of her dreams and desires…  A thoughtful book with strong echoes in the present day. Highly recommended.”

— 5 Minutes for Books (read full review)


“Talk about a thought-provoking book! Not only do we get to read about books, but we read about passion for writing. We also read about race, racism, identity, gender, and so much more in this smart and engaging story.”

— A Bookish Way of  Life  (read full review)


“. . . Cora’s Kitchen is a thought-provoking book, beautifully written and engaging. I would love to read more about Cora’s journey and will keep my eye out for more from this author.”

— Kahakai Kitchen (read full review)


“This book hit home and shook me in so many ways! … I think this book just knocked my favorite book of the year off its podium. A MUST READ!”

— Wall-to-Wall Books (read full review)

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