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The Color Inside a Melon by John Domini

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The Color Inside a Melon by John Domini


The Color Inside a Melon by John Domini


Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 978-1-945814-85-3

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“The narrative has its requisite share of mobsters, cops and bloodshed, but for Domini these are mainly pegs upon which to explore Risto’s sense of displacement and belonging. ... Domini’s novel is determined to push the noir—and us—out of well-worn ruts." The Washington Post

A disastrous earthquake has Naples reeling. While the government scrambles to maintain appearances, poverty and anarchy rack the people on Italy’s margins—the illegal immigrants out of Africa, known as the clandestini. One of whom has just been horrifically murdered.

Enter Risto, a rare success story. A refugee from Mogadishu, orphaned in his teens, he’s now married the Neapolitan Paola and is the proprietor of a celebrated art gallery. The murder recalls the deaths of his loved ones years ago in Mogadishu, a trauma Risto can’t outrun.

Thinking to force the hand of the white authorities, Risto begins his own investigation. But once he starts playing detective, he quickly gets in over his head. Worse, his digging seems to have brought on a strange hallucination: a golden halo only he can see, like a visionary’s foretelling of death. Everyone he knows, including the woman he loves, seems to brim with secrets; every discovery Risto makes drives him toward an earthquake of his own.

A portrait of turmoil inside and out, The Color Inside a Melon explores race and class, belonging and exclusion in one of the world’s ancient cities. Prolific author, critic, and essayist John Domini delivers an unforgettable portrait of humanity’s endless struggle between moving on and making a home.


“John Domini enters the world of African immigrants in Naples living on the edge of the law, in a gripping, noir-ish thriller written in prose that somehow manages to be both elegant and hard-boiled. An absorbing read." — Salman Rushdie

The Color Inside a Melon is about a man consumed by secrets and lies in a city on the edge. Disguised as a murder mystery, it twists, turns, then coils into a scorpion’s sting." —Marlon James, Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

“What a dazzling cast of desperate characters Domini serves up in his post-earthquake depiction of Naples, an international maelstrom of refugees, criminals, and artists. Lawless ambition threatens to destroy the life of this city, but like the best authors and the best men, Domini fights to make room for justice and human dignity." —Bonnie Jo Campbell, National Book Award finalist and author of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters

“Domini tells the story of Risto, a Somali orphan now become a successful gallerist in Naples, in the process producing a compelling portrait of African immigrants and refugees in Italy while reinvigorating the murder mystery genre and illuminating the complexities of a twenty-first century marriage. In so doing, he draws his Neapolitan trilogy to a close, with the poetic compression and painterly verve that has become a hallmark of his impressive oeuvre." —John Keene, MacArthur Fellow and author of Counternarratives

“An ambitiously conceived, utterly original novel. This book is a puzzle—all the elements from the knife-edged prose to the absorbing plot are intricately linked in service of a larger narrative. Risto’s quest to find his countryman’s murderer is also his quest to reconcile his dual identities as a Naples resident and businessman and a refugee of war-torn Somalia. But more than this, this book examines the formation of self and the sacrifices required to find a place called home." —Allison Amend, author of Enchanted Islands

“At once an erudite and urbane detective story, an unlikely love story, a mordant cultural history of today’s Naples, a gritty and compassionate portrait of both its demimonde and its new immigrant underclass, and a meditation on the resourcefulness with which outsiders, in their high-wire attempts to thrive, can push back on the very machinery that betrays them." —Jim Shepard, National Book Award finalist for Like You’d Understand, Anyway

The Color Inside a Melon is one of those rare novels full of secrets and mystery that will keep you thinking long after you're finished turning the pages. Full of rich humor, the novel follows Risto's adventures as he tries to uncoil a murder that too quickly consumes his life. Domini proves once again he is among the strongest writers of contemporary fiction working today. I loved it." —Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of Where the Dead Sit Talking

The Color inside a Melon is a barbed and scintillating take on Naples at its margins, a noirish journey through a world not just glimpsed from outside but enlivened from within with remarkable brio." — Zachary Lazar, author of Vengeance and Sway

“Part literary noir, part detective story and set in Domini's beloved Naples, The Color Inside of a Melon addresses the issues of our age head on: race, class, and violence. The real mystery being unwound in the piazzas and dark underbelly of old Italy is humanity's true nature and bottomless capacity to love and hate one another." — WriteLiving

“What a timely novel John Domini has delivered. More importantly, what a magnificent work of art The Color Inside a Melon is--an absolute tour de force with life bursting from each line. These pages don't speak. They sing." —Steve Yarbrough, author of The Unmade World and The Realm of Last Chances

“Question: Is there a white American writer from Des Moines, Iowa, audacious enough to write a novel from the perspective of a successful black African refugee from Mogadishu, Somalia, living in Naples, Italy, with an eye toward exploring race and culture via a literary murder mystery? Answer: yes, there is. His name is John Domini, and the novel is The Color inside a Melon. Domini is fearless, his prose is brilliant, and The Color inside a Melon is relentlessly engaging." — Ed Falco, author of Wolf Point and Saint John of the Five

“Culture, conflict, character, color—the stuff of real life swirls through Domini’s new novel, and it will take your breath away even as it buoys you up and bears you along." — Jon Clinch, author of Finn and Kings of the Earth

Praise for “Movieola!”

“A new shriek for a new century… an amplification of Nathaniel West." — The Millions 

“Thoroughly entertaining.” — Vanity Fair 

“A book to devour." — BBC Culture

Listed in Chicago Tribune as “One of 30 Books to Read,” Summer, 2016

“Feverishly exuberant… highly visual and incredibly verbal.” — The Rumpus 

“The prose recalls Nabokov..., the words at times tap dancing and somersaulting.” — The Nervous Breakdown

“A bravura performance from a writer producing his best work.”— Brooklyn Rail 

"Movieola! is a glory -- smart, cutting and funny.” — Sam Lipsyte

"A remarkable, droll meditation on film;… and on how all great works of art either invent a genre or dissolve one.” — David Shields 

“Reading Domini is always the smartest kind of fun – everyone who loves movies will love this book.”— Amber Sparks

"What Domini sneaks into the theater under his jacket, however, is a slyly disruptive deployment of the language of Hollywood insiderdom and wannabe insiderdom — the parody is unstinting, but the souls of the characters are never neglected.” — Christopher Sorrentino 

“If you've had it with the movies, John Domini in MOVIEOLA! will tell you, friskily, why.” — Padgett Powell 

Praise for John Domini’s fiction

“John Domini is a writer of the world.” — Steve Erickson 

“A rich feast, full of sparkling observation, wit, real mystery, characters we believe.” — Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize, on Earthquake I.D. 

“Both cutting-edge innovative and splendidly readable. This book is a flat-out delight.” — Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize, on Talking Heads: 77 

"Streetwise and pain-acquainted, Domini's new story-collection is a good rich read indeed.” — John Barth, on Highway Trade 

“Domini’s tales… warble with incantations, lamentations, orations; they sparkle with craftsmanship.” — Richard Price, on Bedlam

About the author

John Domini has three stories collections and three novels in print. Other books include selections of criticism and poetry. He’s published fiction in Paris Review and Ploughshares, non-fiction in GQ and the New York Times, and won a poetry prize from Meridian. Grants include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The New York Times praised his work as "dreamlike... grabs hold of both reader and character," and Alan Cheuse, of NPR, described it as "witty and biting." He has taught at Harvard, Northwestern and elsewhere and makes his home in Des Moines.