Meet James Samuel Vincent, an affluent Manhattan attorney who shirks his modest Irish American background but hews to his father’s meandering ways. James muddles through a topsy-turvy relationship with his son, Rufus, which is further complicated when Rufus marries Claudia Christie.

Claudia’s mother—Agnes Miller Christie—is a beautiful African American woman who survives a chance encounter on a Georgia road that propels her into a new life in the Bronx. Soon after, her husband, Eddie Christie, is called to duty on an air craft carrier in Vietnam, where Tom Stoppard’s play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” becomes Eddie’s life anchor, as he grapples with mounting racial tensions on the ship and counts the days until he will see Agnes again.

These unforgettable characters’ lives intersect with a cast of lovers and friends—the unapologetic black lesbian who finds her groove in 1970s Berlin; a moving man stranded in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, during a Thanksgiving storm; two half-brothers who meet as adults in a crayon factory; and a Coney Island waitress whose Prince Charming is too good to be true.

With piercing humor, exacting dialogue, and a beautiful sense of place, Regina Porter’s debut is both an intimate family portrait and a sweeping exploration of what it means to be American today.

Praise for The Travelers

“A poetic, spare, sometimes funny tale of ordinary people pining for meaningful connections.” —The New York Times Book Review

“American history comes to vivid, engaging life in this tale of two interconnected families (one white, one black) that spans from the 1950s to Barack Obama’s first year as president. . . . The complex, beautifully drawn characters are unique and indelible.” Entertainment Weekly

“An astoundingly audacious debut.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“A gorgeous generational saga.”New York Post

“[A] kaleidoscopic début . . . Porter deftly skips back and forth through the decades, sometimes summarizing a life in a few paragraphs, sometimes spending pages on one conversation. As one character observes, ‘We move in circles in this life.’”The New Yorker

“Porter’s electric debut is a sprawling saga that follows two interconnected American families. . . . Readers will certainly be drawn in by Porter’s sharp writing and kept hooked by the black-and-white photographs interspersed throughout the book, which give faces to the evocative voices.”Booklist

Download the Reading Guide

If you’re looking for a bit more guidance for your book club, classroom, or personal reading, please download our book club kit, which features the following:

  • A note from Regina

  • Connecting Roots in The Travelers (character family tree)

  • Reading Group Guide / Discussion Questions

  • Recipes

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Pass It On

When the boy was four, he asked his father why people needed sleep. His father said, “So God could un-f*** all the things people f*** up.”

When the boy was twelve, he asked his mother why his father had left. The mother said, “So he could f*** anything that moves.”

When the boy was thirteen, he wanted to know why his father was back in their house again. His mother told him, “At forty-one, I can’t be bothered to go out and find anyone to f***.”

At fourteen, when profanity seemed to roll off his friends’ tongues like water down a leaky pipe, the word f*** held no allure for the boy. None. What. So. Ever.

At eighteen, the boy (Jimmy Vincent, Jr.) left his hometown of Huntington, Long Island, to attend the University of Michigan. Jimmy was, by all accounts, a very good student and handsome to the point of distraction. He could have had any girl he wanted, but as these things often go, he pivoted toward a wonderfully plain girl named Alice. Jimmy convinced himself that he loved Alice, and the two freshmen enjoyed tipsy, acrobatic sex. Delighted by her good fortune, Alice would hug Jimmy close to...

Excerpted from The Travelers by Regina Porter. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Photo: © Liz Lazarus

About the Author

Regina Porter is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and recipient of a 2017-2018 Rae Armour West Postgraduate Scholarship. She is also a 2017 Tin House Summer Workshop Scholar. Her fiction has been published in The Harvard Review. An award-winning writer with a background in playwriting, Porter has worked with Playwrights Horizons, the Joseph Papp Theater, New York Stage and Film, the Women's Project, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Horizon Theatre Company. She has been anthologized in Plays from Woolly Mammoth by Broadway Play Services and Heinemann's Scenes for Women by Women. She has also been profiled in Southern Women Playwrights: New Essays in History and Criticism from the University of Alabama Press. Porter was born in Savannah, Georgia, and lives in Brooklyn.

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