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"De’Shawn Charles Winslow plucks at that tension between urban and rural anxieties in his latest novel, Decent People. Fans of this talented young author will recognize the setting from his 2019 debut, In West Mills." ––The Washington Post

"The care and detail Winslow pours into crafting each character shines through as their present-day motivations are explained by dense, believable histories." ––The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A propulsive second novel, a murder mystery that doubles as a savvy examination of race and class... Decent People practically turns its own pages..." ––The Los Angeles Times 

“One of De'Shawn Charles Winslow's greatest gifts is his world-building mastery. West Mills and the people who reside in it feel so real, recognizable, tangible, vibrant, and vivid. His rendering of this southern landscape is extraordinary. And this skill serves Decent People very well... it's a compelling mystery with brilliant misdirections and surprising revelations, all while having depth of purpose and critical, crucial social commentary. Decent People is quite the achievement.” Robert Jones Jr., author of the National Book Award Finalist and New York Times bestseller, The Prophets

“De'Shawn Charles Winslow's powerful second novel Decent People is a gripping mystery but also something more. A thoughtful examination of small-town life becomes a story about America itself, looking directly at the legacies of racism and segregation, homophobia and secrecy, poverty and power.” Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

“Anyone who adored Charmaine Wilkerson's Black Cake and Dolen Perkins-Valdez's Take My Hand, take note. De'Shawn Charles Winslow invites readers on a satisfying ride that, through his keen observations of human nature, leads to deeper considerations of the glacial progress of racial equality.” ―BookPage, starred review

“Winslow chronicles the aftermath of a triple homicide that rocks a segregated Southern community in his dynamic latest . . . There are a trove of surprises along the way to the well-earned resolution, and Winslow entrances readers with strong characters, impeccable prose, and brisk pacing. As a character-driven mystery, it delivers the goods.” ―Publishers Weekly

“This tale comes across as considerably more than a regional whodunit because of its author's humane and sensitive perceptions toward his characters, even those who may not deserve such equanimity.” ―Kirkus Reviews

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About the Author

De'Shawn Charles Winslow is the author of In West Mills, a Center for Fiction First Novel Prize winner, an American Book Award recipient, a Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction winner, and a Los Angeles Times Book Award, Lambda Literary Award, and Publishing Triangle Award finalist. He was born and raised in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.


"There are plenty of adjectives that could describe Winslow's debut: endearing, certainly.  Hilarious, absolutely. Charming, for days. But none of them are adequate to this quietly complicated, impossibly big-hearted novel about family, migration and the unbearable difficulties of love. Here's a cast of characters you won't soon forget." –Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

"De'Shawn Charles Winslow has a rare and blessed gift for writing characters who live and breathe and struggle and love one another and attain, in their imperfect, human way, a miraculous grace. The scope of this slim novel astonishes me: it encompasses an entire world."   –Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

“Reading In West Mills is like joining a new family, one you didn’t know you needed to be part of.  De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s stubborn, vivid characters will take over your imagination; you’ll worry about Knot’s drinking and Breezy’s wanting two of everything and the many women Otis Lee loves.  And when you get to the end you’ll wonder how this short novel contains so many lives, so much wit and warmth.  A stunning debut.” –Margot Livesey, author of Mercury

"De'Shawn Charles Winslow is in possession of a voice, one that's not only pitch-perfect but also arresting and important and new. It's a voice that's by turns funny and heartbreaking and beautiful, much like the characters of In West Mills themselves. This novel will grab you first by the ears, and then by the hand, and then by the heart."—Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers

"In West Mills is full of vernacular riches. In it, De'Shawn Winslow and his characters show themselves to be masters of what Zora Neale Hurston referred to admiringly in African American expression as 'drama' and the 'will to adorn.' Readers won't be able to resist falling for the people who populate this striking debut novel, which is a treasure of humor, warmth, and wisdom." –Jamel Brinkley, author of A Lucky Man

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow is an enthralling debut from a masterful writer. Prepare to be captivated by the community of West Mills, with its deep secrets and even deeper friendships. I love this compassionate, profound book. –Helen Phillips, author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat

    And From Bookstores & Libraries:

“Some stories linger with you and this one grabs you by the chin and pulls you right into the room to witness the complicated intertwining lives of the small community of West Mills.  With infallible writing, De’Shawn Charles Winslow has woven a narrative rich story that belongs beside the prized American literature of our time.”—Jesica Sweedler DeHart, Librarian @ Neill Public Library and Influencer

“In West Mills is, at its core, an invitation: a welcome to the vast universe inside a small town, where personalities loom larger than buildings and relationship histories provide the backdrop for all other events. Smart and trusting of its readers, it slips you names and secrets so fast you’ll start to think you’ve always known them. Yes, this novel opens kitchens and porches to us with undeniable generosity—and it reveals the intimate experience of redemption that comes from long-honored memory, long-term commitment, and long-standing love.”—Hannah Fenster, The Ivy Bookshop

“In West Mills is a novel about the ways in which people raise one another, but its characters belong to themselves as much as they do to their communities. As Knot, the novel’s self-determined protagonist, ties and unties her relationship to her children and forebearers, she lets readers in on the secrets of her small town, a primarily black, rural community struggling to find a foothold in mid-twentieth century America. In West Mills, there are no familiar or easy motifs. Rumor becomes a force of love. Lineage becomes a force of danger. Labor becomes a force of self-preservation. De’Shawn Charles Winslow writes with exceptional compassion, wit, and daring; you will fall in love with West Mills and its people.”—Jane Huffman, Prairie Lights Bookstore

"It's 1941 in West Mills, a small and mostly African-American North Carolina town, and Azalea "Knot" Centre is totally uninterested in conforming to anyone's expectations of her. She's fierce, intelligent, and confident in her love of booze and sex. And when her parents cast her out, she finds her family in a handful of close friends and neighbors...all of whom have problems of their own, of course. Covering a period of nearly 50 years in West Mills, De'shawn Charles Winslow has created a terrific group of characters and put together a wonderful story of lifelong friendship, and the secrets and choices that go along with that territory." -Erika VanDam, RoscoeBooks

"In West Mills was a very hard book to put down. I read most of it on a flight and I would have stayed on the plane longer to finish it if they'd let me. I really loved this book! De'Shawn Charles Winslow loves and respects and understands his characters and it comes through on every page." -Colin Sneed, Flyleaf Books

"Knot is a strong and independent woman in a rural town in North Carolina. She likes her liquor and she will always speak her mind and regrets none of it. She is one of many members of the community of West Mills that we get to know over the course of 40 years in De'Shawn Charles Winslow's beautiful and feisty book about the love of family, friends and neighbors. Though not always perfect and with a fair share of secrets, they always try to do what they believe is best for the ones they love". -Carl Kranz,  Fountain Books

"Azalea Centre knows who she is and what she wants and everyone else can just be damned. That attitude impacts just about everybody in the tiny town of West Mills, North Carolina for better or worse. And that is the beauty of this debut. So much of what seems will be the worst turns out OK as folks forgive without forgetting and move forward. A beautiful story about strong women and the men who love them." -Anne Holman, King's English Bookshop

This book is a stunner!! As someone who reads books for a living and has to be somewhat mercenary about her time, I could NOT put this book down. It is in conversation with Toni Morrison and Alice Walker and Zora, but it also feels wonderfully fresh and new. The character of Knot, larger than life in all her humanity and folly, leaps from the pages. I loved every minute of this book!"   -Mary Cotton,  Newtonville Books

"In West Mills is an incredible portrayal of a fiercely independent woman who has committed herself to the life she chose when she left home to become a teacher in a tiny town in NC. She quickly becomes an integral part of the fabric of life in West Mills, becoming fast friends with a host of incredible characters, but she refuses to conform and tests the limits of the love of everyone in her life. This was such a fabulous book. Winslow's characters are rich and deeply developed. His dialogue feels like part of the landscape. I absolutely treasured the opportunity to read this novel." -Adah Fitzgerald, Main Street Books (NC)

"From the first pages of In West Mills, which begins in 1941 and spans more than six decades, I knew that the main character Knot would be someone I’d follow to the ends of the earth. Stubborn, brilliant, dysfunctional and reckless, she barrels and crashes through her life, often with a jar of moonshine in her hands. At her side is a band of loving, sometimes exasperated friends who through the years become more like family, and whom she loves with her own kind of spiky fierceness. The novel quietly tackles ideas of American racial identity, sexuality, income inequality and motherhood, but instead of being a novel only about those issues, it is at its heart a story of community, chosen family, secrets and loyalty. I loved this book and can’t wait to see what De’Shawn Charles Winslow does next." - Elissa Sweet Bank Square Books

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De'Shawn Charles Winslow

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