Marie-Elena John’s Unburnable: the movie


Plans are under way to turn Marie-Elena’s debut novel Unburnable into a film by The Hurricane producer Rudy Langlais, who, John said, “contacted me a little over a year ago after my brother Joey met him and gave him a copy of Unburnable.” The Hollywood producer, who also has projects on Miles Davis and Rita and Bob Marley in development, is Kittitian born with a Dominican father. Since that initial meeting, Langlais and John have been collaborating on an adaptation of Unburnable. “It took us a whole year to break the book down John explained, “and this summer, we finally finished with the structural part and I’m now writing the actual script.”

Unburnable, as Booklist describes it, is a

compelling first novel [that] traces the fortunes of three generations of women from the small Caribbean Island of Dominica. Matilda, descended from African slaves, was a famous healer and possible murderer. The story of her hanging was handed down in songs. Her daughter, Iris, was famous as the jilted lover of a rich man and the victim of a horrific rape. Her subsequent insanity and death also became legendary. Iris’ daughter, Lillian, was raised by her devoutly Catholic stepmother. Until the age of 15 she remains unaware that the infamous women of song are her legacy. Now living in Washington, D.C., the fragile, adult Lillian returns to Dominica to try to unravel the history of her family. The richly told narrative alternates between time periods, building suspense and compassion for all of the characters. The possibly insane Lillian is the least well rounded of the women, which makes the final chapters a little disappointing. The diversity of the African diaspora is often overlooked in modern African American literature, and this page-turner fills in some gaps.

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