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Digging Stars: A Novel

A National Book Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation 2024 Science + Literature Selection

Blending drama and satire while examining the complexities of colonialism, racism, and what it means to be American, Digging Stars probes the emotional universes of love, friendship, family, and nationhood.

With admission to The Program, an elite interdisciplinary graduate cohort at the forefront of astronomy and technology, Rosa’s dreams are finally within reach. Her research into the cosmos follows in the footsteps of her astronomer father’s revolutionary work in Bantu geometries and Indigenous astronomies. A bona fide genius, he transformed the scientific landscape by fusing the best of Western and Indigenous scientific thought. Yet since his death during her childhood, Rosa has been plagued by anxiety attacks she dubs “The Terrors”―and by unresolved questions about her father’s life. Who is his mysterious friend Mr. C? Who was her father, really?

Ambitious, hungry for success, and determined to soar, Rosa joins the ranks of America’s smartest. Her cohort of talented Fellows includes Shaniqua, her roommate, who is analyzing melanin molecules and their capacity to conduct electricity; Richard, an expert in quantum mechanics; Mausi, studying Indigenous American scientific thought; and Péralte, Rosa’s estranged stepbrother whose obsessive videogaming has inspired him to become a programmer. Her classmates challenge Rosa’s understanding of identity, personhood, the ethics of technology, and, most painfully, her adulation of her father, whose legacy is more complicated than it appears.

Digging Stars is a paean to the cosmos and a celebration of the democratic spirit of knowledge. Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s characters explode the rigid matrices of the academy to prove that science, art, technology, and history are all planets orbiting the same sun.

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