NAZARÈ: A NOVEL (PM Press, 2021)


Nazaré tells the story of a peasants’ revolt in the polyglot city of Balaal. A homeless boy and a washerwoman cobble together a ramshackle army of fishermen, shopkeepers, lapsed nuns, anarchist bats, and an itinerant camel in an attempt to end the brutal reign of a dictator. Looming over them all is the legend of the giant wave—Nazaré—that will one day annihilate everyone and everything in Balaal. Nazaré is a magical realist adventure and a parable that pits the oppressed against the oppressor.   


“Nazaré grabs the reader from the first page and never lets go, bringing us into so many rich and colorful worlds. This brilliant novel will earn JJ Amaworo Wilson a spotlight on the main stage of world fiction.” – Daniel Chacón, American Book Award winner, author of Kafka in a Skirt

“JJ Amaworo Wilson is a word magician, and Nazaré is an extraordinary and inventive allegory for our time, a kaleidoscopic adventure of epic proportions. Its mighty and potent message is simple and true: evil will ever be defeated by the goodness of great souls.” – Denise Chávez, American Book Award winner, author of The King and Queen of Comezón and Loving Pedro Infante

“Nazaré brings to mind the work of Jorge Amado, Louis de Bernieres, Alejo Carpentier, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. But it’s no imitation. JJ Amaworo Wilson is a topnotch novelist in his own right. I fell in love with his troubled city, its eclectic characters with their unlikely alliances, comedic turns, bursts of magic, and with the depth and nuance of a community rising against tyranny and corruption.” – David Anthony Durham, author of The Risen

“I celebrate this novel for its sea village textures, its power driven tides of story and characters, shaped and painted as if they were figures rising up from the buried truths of an ancient ocean and its peoples. The materials are multilayered with whale skin, song names, the breath of brujas and the whispers of old men and widowed women. There is tenderness, transcendence and the voyages into the unknown we all seek to enter and be reborn. Amaworo Wilson’s dexterity, abundant materials, culture lens and visual genius gives us a rare, ground-shaking novel, a tidal wave of prizes.” – Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the USA, Emeritus

“Steeped in awe and everyday mysticism, Nazaré captured me with its stunning opening scene, and never let go. It is a story both timeless and urgent, and every passage is alight with humor, ingenuity, and surprise. A singular voice in contemporary fiction, JJ Amaworo Wilson offers readers both an energizing escape and a look at how to live with courage and clarity through absurd times.” – Adrienne Celt, author of End of the World House and Invitation to a Bonfire

“Like the wave that gives it its title, JJ Amaworo Wilson’s Nazaré is a high-water mark for fabulist fiction, an exceptional novel that showcases the superior gifts of a writer who only gets better with each new work.” – Elizabeth Hand, author of Generation Loss and Curious Toys



Winner: Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award in Debut Fiction

Winner: Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction

Winner: New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Fiction

Winner: Prix SGDL Révélation de Traduction for the French translation Les Dévastés

Finalist: Eric Hoffer Book Award

Finalist: Foreword INDIES Book Award

Top 10 Books to Pick Up Now, “O” The Oprah Magazine, January 2016

No. 1 pick: 5 Small Press Books to Read, BookRiot, 2016

Nominee: American Book Award, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, Balcones Fiction Prize, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Named on “An Activist’s Book List” top 15 books by Californians for Justice


Damnificados is loosely based on the real-life occupation of a half-completed skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, the Tower of David. In this fictional version, 600 “damnificados”—vagabonds and misfits—take over an abandoned urban tower and set up a community complete with schools, stores, beauty salons, bakeries, and a rag-tag defensive militia. Their always heroic (and often hilarious) struggle for survival and dignity pits them against corrupt police, the brutal military, and the tyrannical “owners.” Taking place in an unnamed country at an unspecified time, the novel has elements of magical realism: avenging wolves, biblical floods, massacres involving multilingual ghosts, arrow showers falling to the tune of Beethoven’s Ninth, and a trash truck acting as a Trojan horse.


“Should be read by every politician and rich bastard and then force-fed to them– literally, page by page.”Jimmy Santiago Baca, author of A Place to Stand

“Mad Max meets the favelas. Powerful … a rich adventure.” – Denise Chávez, author of The King and Queen of Comezón

“A beautiful book. Blow-you-away amazing. Wrings out every bit of richness and juice from the characters to the scenes to the mood. A fantastic read.” – Daniel Chacón, author of Hotel Juarez

“I loved the world Amaworo Wilson created.” – Mark Medoff, Tony Award-winning author of Children of a Lesser God

“Great writing.” – Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States, author of Notes on the Assemblage

Damnificados by JJ Amaworo Wilson is a fascinating story of struggle, passion, and justice, told in crackling prose. Mythic, beautiful, wise, and strange, it yields pleasures on every page.” – Joy Castro, author of Island of Bones and How Winter Began

“I loved Damnificados. It is beautifully written, deeply felt and imagined. This scary, brutal world became a place I wanted to enter again and again.” – Marita Golden, author of After and The Wide Circumference of Love

“A modern-day David and Goliath of epic proportions … an amazing debut.” – Aaron Michael Morales, author of Drowning Tucson

“JJ Amaworo Wilson writes with deep human sympathy and memorable descriptive powers. Damnificados is a story that needs to be heard.” – Diran Adebayo, author of Some Kind of Black

“JJ Amaworo Wilson is a terrific writer with a story that grabs you by the throat and never lets you go. Two-headed beasts, biblical floods, dragonflies to the rescue—magical realism threads through this authentic and compelling struggle of men and women—the damnificados—to make a home for themselves against all odds. As the crippled Nacho says, the refuge he helps create is “always on the brink of chaos.” Yet into this modern, urban, politically-familiar landscape of the “have-nots” versus the “haves,” Amaworo Wilson introduces archetypes of hope and redemption that are also deeply familiar—true love, vision quests, the hero’s journey, even the remote possibility of a happy ending. These characters, this place, this dream will stay with you long after you’ve put this book down.” – Sharman Apt Russell, author of Hunger and Diary of a Citizen Scientist

“An extraordinary read by a gifted writer … the strength of the novel lies in the telling—spare and brisk language.” – Felipe Ortego y Gasca, founder of the Chicano Renaissance

“Only a rare and special talent can take contemporary realities–sad, joyful, infuriating, inspiring–and spin them into legend. In a narrative rich in danger, adventure, humor, romance, and risk, JJ Amaworo Wilson raises essential questions without succumbing to earnestness or didacticism. I am grateful to him for offering such eloquent fiction that entertains even as it advances our world’s very necessary struggle.” Diane Lefer, author of Confessions of a Carnivore and California Transit (Mary McCarthy Prize)

Damnificados is a rich fictional creation inspired by legends of the past and visions of the future. The true magic of the novel is that it conjures a teeming, vigorous world that feels like an urgent version of now. The damnificados of the title embody the injustices and wonders that exist at the edge of our modern vision, brought energetically into focus by Amaworo Wilson’s evident savour for language. Go on, live a little with the damned.” – Richard Beard, author of Acts of the Assassins

“Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Damnificados is a rambunctious ride that reads speedy, leading to a fast and furious crescendo that will leave you thinking about your reality versus the version of magical realism that comes to life in the novel. Are they really that far apart?” – John Gist, author of Angst and Evolution and Lizard Dreaming of Birds

“It is not often that one reads a work of fiction that accomplishes the complicated task of depicting marginality, silence, abandonment, and other forms of socio-cultural exclusion. But this novel offers so much more than informed entertainment: this is truly beautiful literature that helps us shape a new understanding of the complex relation between peoples, cultures of resistance, and the urban environment.” – Andrej Grubačić, co-author of Wobblies and Zapatistas

“A hopeful dystopia, as lushly described by J.J. Amaworo Wilson, seems like an oxymoron, but it becomes verifiably real in Damnificados. For anyone who has ever rooted for the triumph of the underdog against the oppression of a greedy elite, this fascinating, insightful novel yields unexpected rewards and delights. Magical realism merges with realpolitik in a populist urban standoff that one can imagine unfolding in almost any large city in any country today. Besides populating his story with sharply drawn (and uncommonly courageous) characters, Wilson seasons his prose with an international word salad that enhances and enlivens the tale. I’ve never read anything like it, and eagerly await Wilson’s next book.” – Richard M. Mahler, author of The Jaguar’s Shadow

“Amaworo Wilson takes Nabokov’s advice.  In crisp sentences he fondles details. They close us in on a world we didn’t know, and now won’t forget.” – A.C.H. Smith, author of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth

“Moses meets the desperados. This is a modern day retelling of an age old story, about a man who leads his people away from poverty and oppression. Engaging, heartwarming, and honest.” – Bart van der Steen, author of The City is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

“From the blurb I thought ‘JG Ballard meets García Márquez, perhaps with a bit of Atwood thrown in’. The reality was weirder and more wonderful: a rollercoaster parable about a latter-day Tower of Babel, its biblical references lurking like cockroaches in every pile of fetid trash. [A] touching and funny chronicle of an old-fashioned Peasants’ Revolt. Breakneck pace, great characters, sharp dialogue and a fascinating melange of languages and placenames.” – Michael Harris, author of Frau Alcaldesa

“An exciting and significant novel. I was powerfully reminded of Llosa’s The War of the End of the World, but Amaworo Wilson has managed something larger … a powerful mythology in which the exploited triumph over forces which have historically had all the advantages and have thus won.” – Larry Godfrey, author of Dancing with Gods

“Damnificados is a mythic story set in modern times with a cast of bizarre characters that reach out and capture you. The writing is bold and brilliant and takes you on a ride that soars.” – Elise Stuart, author of Another Door Calls

“A modern classic.” – Bonnie Buckley Maldonado, author of The Secret Lives of Us Kids

“An outstanding novel.” – Dick Gerdes, translator of Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Ana María Shua, Diamela Eltit, Gonzalo Celorio

“Colorful characters and brilliant writing on full display in an imaginative tale that is thought provoking and entertaining. Delighted by feeling the humanity of these Damnificados, cast aside and forgotten as persons, yet full of heart and soul. The author is very skilled at conveying visceral and sensory imagery, captivating readers with fantastic sights and sounds, fully immersing them in the action. An excellent read!” – Victor Acquista, author of Sentient

“A Marquez-esque magical realist fiction based around the true story of how an empty tower block in Venezuela got squatted by homeless people, Damnificados is a fine piece of writing. It is a story of hope in the midst of cruel poverty and callous property owners. A timely tale for this decade.” – Sam Berkson, author of Life in Transit

Damnificados is JJ Amaworo Wilson’s out-of-the-mold, strange and magical retelling of a modern day Tower of Babel where the lowest of the low are herded together in an uncomfortable existence. Not for the squeamish, this wildly imaginative tale body slams the reader on every page with its Kafkaesque picture of the shunned among us. Here despair is paired with hopelessness on a near daily basis as the damnificados are swept from one crisis to yet another. This is a disquieting but important read for those weighing the cost of peace and justice against the central question of are we are brothers’ keeper?” – Ron Hamm, author of Ross Calvin, Interpreter of the American Southwest

“I loved it. The story reminded me of [the] Zapatistas in Chiapas and the creative ways they have found to make an alternative world “where everyone fits.” A great book.” – Christine Eber, author of When a Woman Rises