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IBIS de Justin Haynes

A bold, witty, and magical cross–generational Caribbean story about migration, superstition, and a refugee’s search for her family.

by Justin Haynes
Abrams, February 2025

There is bad luck in New Felicity. The people of the small coastal village have taken in Milagros, an 11–year–old Venezuelan refugee, just as Trinidad’s government has begun cracking down on undocumented migrants—and now an American journalist has come to town asking questions. New Felicity’s superstitious fishermen fear the worst, certain they’ve brought bad luck on the village by killing a local witch who had herself murdered two villagers the year before. The town has been plagued since her death by alarming visits from her supernatural mother, as well as by a mysterious profusion of scarlet ibis birds. Now, skittish that the reporter’s story will bring down the wrath of the ministry of national security, the fishermen take things into their own hands. From there, we go backward and forward in time—from the town’s early days, when it was the site of a sugar plantation, to Milagros’s adulthood as she searches for her mother across the Americas. In between, through the voices of a chorus of narrators, we glimpse moments from various villagers’ lives, each one setting into motion events that will reverberate outwards across the novel and shape Milagros’s fate.

With kinetic, absorbing language and a powerful sense of voice, Ibis meditates on the bond between mothers and daughters, both highlighting the migrant crisis that troubles the contemporary world and offering a moving exploration of how to square where we come from with who we become.

Justin Haynes is a novelist and short story writer from Brooklyn by way of Trinidad and Tobago. Having earned his MFA from the University of Notre Dame and PhD from Vanderbilt, Justin has been awarded various fiction residencies and fellowships, most recently the Nicholas Jenkins Barnett fiction fellowship from Emory University and the Tin House Workshop. His writing has been published in a variety of literary magazines and journals, including Caribbean Quarterly, the Hawai’i Review, and Pree. Justin lives in in Atlanta and teaches English at Oglethorpe University.