Publisher: AK Press
Released: August 23, 2022
Begin the World Over is part of the Emergent Strategy Series.
Finalist for the 2022 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History
A revolutionary tale of Black and Indigenous insurrection. History as it should have been. Begin the World Over is a counterfactual novel about the Founders’ greatest fear—that Black and Indigenous people might join forces to undo the newly formed United States of America—coming true.
In 1793, as revolutionaries in the West Indies take up arms, James Hemings has little interest in joining the fight for liberté—talented and favored, he is careful to protect his relative comforts as Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved chef. But when he meets Denmark Vesey, James is immediately smitten. The formidable first mate persuades James to board his ship, on its way to the revolt in Saint-Domingue. There and on the mainland they join forces with a diverse cast of characters, including a gender nonconforming prophetess, a formerly enslaved jockey, and a Muskogee horse trader. The resulting adventure masterfully mixes real historical figures and events with a riotous retelling of a possible history in which James must decide whether to return to his constrained but composed former life, or join the coalition of Black revolutionaries and Muskogee resistance to fight the American slavers and settlers.
Praise for Begin the World Over
"Telling an alternative history of the Caribbean slave rebellions in the 1790s, it’s a story of adventure, determination, and people’s passion for freedom and each other. This historical fiction with a twist has an intriguing plot that will make the reader ask how the world could be different."
"Begin the World Over remixes Baldwin's plea to do your first works over and artfully asks what if we did our national imagination over. It is creative as it is rigorous and enjoyable as it is demanding. Kung Li made me want to rewrite every ounce of history this nation has told me was truth, in search of multiple freedoms etched on terms set by our hearts."
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
"What a brilliant book! One of the ways we can understand our current state is as the outcome of millions of choices made by preceding generations. In this alternate history, Kung Li helps us imagine what would have happened if the Haitian revolution had spread throughout the United States. The first work of fiction in our Emergent Strategy Series is a queer, multicultural, adventurous and revolutionary text that shows how the subtle, bombastic and often intimate work of organizing can have a large scale impact. Readers should expect to be delighted by the time travel experience of deeply researched historical fiction, and inspired by the strategic invitation to use our lives for liberation."
—adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy Series
Kung Li Sun is a lifelong southerner raised in an immigrant family and currently based on the Gulf Coast. As a public interest attorney, she brought class-action lawsuits on behalf of people in prisons and jails. He left lawyering to support undocumented and abolitionist organizers as a strategist and trainer, and to write. This is their first novel.