Margaret Wilkerson Sexton writes historical fiction that shares stories of being Black in America. On the Rooftop is set in the Fillmore neighborhood in 1950s San Francisco where we meet The Salvations, a singing trio of three sisters who are on the verge of making it big. While they've had vocal training almost daily from their mother Vivian, her influence is waning as each of the girls has their sights set on a different path. This is a book about motherhood and sisterhood with an emphasis on the importance of having a neighborhood community. When white developers threaten the entire existence of their world - their nightclub, their bookstore, their homes - will this Black community survive and move to Oakland? Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's writing only gets better and this third novel is brilliant.— Rachel Watkins
A stunning novel about a mother whose dream of musical stardom for her three daughters collides with the daughters’ ambitions for their own lives—set against the backdrop of gentrifying 1950s San Francisco
At home they are just sisters, but on stage, they are The Salvations. Ruth, Esther, and Chloe have been singing and dancing in harmony since they could speak. Thanks to the rigorous direction of their mother, Vivian, they’ve become a bona fide girl group whose shows are the talk of the Jazz-era Fillmore.
Now Vivian has scored a once-in-a-lifetime offer from a talent manager, who promises to catapult The Salvations into the national spotlight. Vivian knows this is the big break she’s been praying for. But sometime between the hours of rehearsal on their rooftop and the weekly gigs at the Champagne Supper Club, the girls have become women, women with dreams that their mother cannot imagine.
The neighborhood is changing, too: all around the Fillmore, white men in suits are approaching Black property owners with offers. One sister finds herself called to fight back, one falls into the comfort of an old relationship, another yearns to make her own voice heard. And Vivian, who has always maintained control, will have to confront the parts of her life that threaten to splinter: the community, The Salvations, and even her family.
Warm, gripping, and wise, with echoes of Fiddler on the Roof, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s latest novel is a moving family portrait from “a writer of uncommon nerve and talent” (New York Times Book Review).
MARGARET WILKERSON SEXTON studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. Her most recent novel, The Revisioners, won a 2020 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work and was a national bestseller as well as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, was long-listed for the National Book Award. She lives in Oakland with her family.
“On the Rooftop explores a subject close to my heart: the shifting terrain between mothers and daughters, further complicated by grief. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's powerful prose takes us to some familiar emotional places within an utterly original story. This searing, intimate portrait of family, ambition, and community from a bygone era feels deeply resonant for those of us still daring to dream today. Beautiful, moving, and truly unforgettable!” — Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
“In all of her work, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton invites us into the most intimate spaces of remarkable families during remarkable times. In this stellar novel, she takes us deeply into the dynamics of mothers and daughters, their individual—and collective—dreams and struggles. The harmonies of The Salvations are the literal soul music of this neighborhood in San Francisco during the turbulent '50s and I will never look up at another rooftop again, without imagining three sisters reaching for their stars.” — Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels
“On the Rooftop further cements Margaret Wilkerson Sexton as a deft chronicler of Blackness in America. A deeply felt, big hearted exploration of family, sisterhood and gentrification, this is the kind of expansive, lush novel that envelops with charm while provoking with its fierce intelligence.” — Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of Libertie
"Richly observed and beautifully written, On the Rooftop weaves the lives of its characters together into a story bursting with music and feeling. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton writes with power and nuance about matters of the spirit and the flesh. A moving, uplifting novel about art and ambition and faith and love." — Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown
“Sexton does a wonderful job of capturing the complicated love that binds Vivian and her daughters. She also beautifully depicts the jealousies and rivalries that can tear once-close sisters apart. . . . A heartfelt tale of family and community.” — Kirkus Reviews