Critical Context

Joyce Carol Thomas was the author of five books of poetry and five plays when she published Marked by Fire, her first novel, in 1982. That year, it won the American Book Award for children’s fiction in paperback. It was also named a best book of the year by the American Library Association and by The New York Times. It was made into a musical called Abyssinia (1987) by Ted Kociolek and played Off-Broadway with an all-black cast.

Bright Shadow (1983), a sequel, takes Abyssinia into college and a romance. The story continues in Water Girl (1986), which takes place in California. Its heroine is Abyssinia’s daughter, Amber, who has been adopted by another family. Thomas has also published two other novels, The Golden Pasture (1986) and Journey (1988).