Swimming Between Worlds

Swimming Between Worlds cover

Available April 3rd, 2018
Book Launch: Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC


Tacker Hart left his home in North Carolina as a local high school football hero, but returns in disgrace after being fired from a prestigious architectural assignment in West Africa. Yet the culture and people he grew to admire have left their mark on him. Adrift, he manages his father’s grocery store and becomes reacquainted with a girl he barely knew growing up.

Kate Monroe’s parents have died, leaving her the family home and the right connections in her Southern town. But a trove of disturbing letters sends her searching for the truth behind the comfortable life she’s been bequeathed.

On the same morning but at different moments, Tacker and Kate encounter a young African-American, Gaines Townson, and their stories converge with his. As Winston-Salem is pulled into the tumultuous 1960s, these three Americans find themselves at the center of the civil rights struggle, coming to terms with the legacies of their pasts as they search for an ennobling future.

Praise for Swimming Between Worlds

“The struggle of [the novel’s] deftly-drawn young characters to navigate the monumental changes—cultural and personal— that the civil rights movement brought to the South is rich and compelling.”
Charles Frazier, New York Times bestselling author
“A smart and tender tale. I was left with admiration for Orr’s exquisite prose along with an awareness of one simple truth: sometimes it takes living in another culture to better understand your own. A beautiful book.”
Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author of The Stolen Marriage
“An original and important novel certain to take its place in American literature on race.”
Angela Davis-Gardner, author of The Plum Wine
“A blistering story told by a gifted writer. From the moment I began this compelling novel, it followed me around; the riveting plot and real-life characters would not let me go.”
Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August
“Poignant and agonizing, the novel captures the South the moment before the gun went off, prefiguring our current national trauma around race and society.”
Fenton Johnson, author of The Man Who Loved Birds
“A captivating narrative about race, sex, nationality, generations and romance, Orr’s expansive new novel fulfills the promise of her debut tour de force, A Different Sun. Her keen sense of historical impact and geographical detail keeps us reading and hoping for a sequel.”
Valerie Miner, author of Traveling with Spirits
“This poignant and triumphant story shows two Americans emerging in a complex time from their own sorrow and displacement to take on political unrest and the turmoils of love.”
Peggy Payne, author of Sister India
“Intelligently written . . . [a] vivid evocation of a civil rights struggle that has heartbreaking relevance to the here and now.”
Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell from the Sky

A Different Sun



Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. When Emma Davis reads the words of Isaiah 6:8 in her room at a Georgia women’s college, she understands her true calling: to become a missionary. It is a leap of faith that sweeps her away to Africa in an odyssey of personal discovery, tremendous hardship, and profound transformation.

For the earnest, headstrong daughter of a prosperous slave owner, living among the Yoruba people is utterly unlike Emma’s sheltered childhood—as is her new husband, Henry Bowman. Twenty years her senior, the mercurial Henry is the object of Emma’s mad first love, intensifying the sensations of all they see and share together. Each day brings new tragedy and heartbreak, and each day, Emma somehow finds the hope, passion, and strength of will to press onward. Through it all, Henry’s first gift to Emma, a simple writing box—with its red leather-bound diary and space for a few cherished keepsakes—becomes her closest confidant, Emma’s last connection to a life that seems, in this strange new world, like a passing memory.

A tale of social and spiritual awakening; a dispatch from a difficult era at home and abroad; and a meditation on faith, freedom, and desire.

Praise for A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa

“A magnificent novel that explores the charged juncture between nineteenth-century Africa and the slaveholding South. This is the spellbinding, richly imagined story.
Angela Davis-Gardner – Author of Plum Wine and Butterfly’s Child
“A beautiful novel, exquisitely written, perfectly complex, true to the past, relevant today, unforgettable.”
Philip F. Deaver, author of Silent Retreats, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award


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Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life

Book Sense Top-20 Selection


Born into a white family of medical missionaries living in Nigeria in 1954 but hailing from the American South, Elaine Neil Orr was given two African names. The hospital staff dubbed the child: Bamidele and Funmilayo. “Bamidele” meant to her mother “born away from home,” but there were other meanings that, in time, the blond gangly girl would learn: “come home with me” or “follow me home” — spoken with arms outstretched, beckoning. “Funmilayo” translates simply: “she brings joy.”

While the U.S. was entering the Civil Rights Movement, Nigeria was in the midst of a national clamor for independence from Great Britain. Nigerian history and details of Yoruba culture Elaine Orr didn’t need to study, since she lived them as a girl.

But when she became herself a young wife and mother with a forward-moving career, she faced diabetes and later kidney failure. As she started her dialysis and patient wait for transplants, she began to live a Yoruba concept held deep in her bones: to journey forward you must journey back.

She realized that only through recovering the homeland she left in her teens, could she find the strength to survive.

Praise for Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life

“A fascinating memoir with language rich enough for a poem, plot rich enough for a novel.”
Doris Betts
“The thoughtfulness of Gods of Noonday toward its subjects and Orr’s lush writing style make it one of this year’s outstanding creative nonfiction books.”
The Louisville Courier-Journal


The Ethiope was a river beyond poetry, iridescent, the water clear as glass, its white sandy bed interrupted at certain depths by rich green river grasses that swayed like the village women dancing. Depending on the angle and time of day, the river’s colors were green and more green, a fluffy white like cotton from the kapok tree, the blue of the woodland kingfisher, or granite beneath a threatening sky. . . . Afternoons at the river were the happiest times I have had—in the company of the people I loved the most—and I believed when I was young that I would live by this river forever, that I would learn to breathe underwater, that I would build a hut by its side, that I would never let it go.


Gods of Noonday Best Creative Non-Fiction Book of 2003. – MaximsNews.com, News Network for the International Community.

The Tennessean

— Cori Yonge —
Special to The Register
The Mobile Register/Mobile, AL


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Audible Audio Edition now available!

Gods of Noonday Audible Audio Version

Writing Out of Limbo



Crossing borders and boundaries, countries and cultures, they are the children of the military, diplomatic corps, international business, education and missions communities. They are called Third Culture Kids or Global Nomads, and the many benefits of their lifestyle — expanded worldview, multiplicity of languages, tolerance for differences – are often mitigated by recurring losses of relationships, of stability, of permanent roots. They are part of an accelerating demographic that is only recently coming into visibility. In this groundbreaking collection, writers from around the world address issues of language acquisition and identity formation, childhood mobility and adaptation, memory and grief, and the artist’s struggle to articulate the experience of growing up global. And, woven like a thread through the entire collection, runs the individual’s search for belonging and a place called home. This book provides a major leap in understanding what it’s like to grow up among worlds. It is invaluable reading for the new global age.


When I left Nigeria for good at age sixteen I took my secret passenger, now a stowaway. She was my African self and she was also that hinged double. Now those selves seemed monstrous, illegal. There was no possibility of my joining African-Americans at lunch in the local high school; yet “passing” as white seemed a lie. If the real me “came out,” her thoughts would appear blasphemous, . . I felt myself completely alien but entirely undetected since it was absolutely clear that no one had the least suspicion of who I really was. The ship of passage was my physical body; she—that other one or two—was lodged somewhere deep inside, . . . I looked white; I sounded white. I owned an American passport. I was cataloged.

Praise for Writing Out of Limbo

“This terrific and substantial volume is a vital step in clarifying the experiences, gifts, and struggles of those who grew up around the world, or with those who grew up elsewhere. I can t wait to teach with it.”
Wendy Laura Belcher, PhD – Professor of Literature, Princeton University


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