"Beautiful, brilliant, bold... Tantamount to a slice from the Americana songbook." --Christopher John Stephens, PopMatters
With luminous insight and fervent prose, Andre Perry's debut collection of personal essays, Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now, travels from Washington, DC, to Iowa City to Hong Kong in search of both individual and national identity. While displaying tenderness and a disarming honesty, Perry catalogs racial degradations committed on the campuses of elite universities and liberal bastions like San Francisco while coming of age in America.
The essays in Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now take the form of personal reflection, multiple choice questions, screenplays, and imagined talk-show conversations, while traversing the daily minefields of childhood schoolyards and Midwestern dive-bars. The impression of Perry's personal journey is arresting and beguiling, while announcing the author's arrival as a formidable American voice.
"A complete, deep, satisfying read... The variety of structures, formats, and rhythms Perry uses in Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now is extraordinary... These essays shine with broken humanity and announce the arrival of a new voice in contemporary nonfiction, but they do so with heaps of melancholia and frustration instead of answers. That Perry can hurt us and keep us asking for more is a testament to his talent as a storyteller." --Gabino Iglesias, NPR
With a poet's precision and an intellectually adventurous spirit, Elizabeth Alexander explores a wide spectrum of contemporary African American artistic life through literature, paintings, popular media, and films, and discusses its place in current culture. In The Black Interior, she examines the vital roles of such heavyweight literary figures as Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, and Rita Dove, as well as lesser known, yet vibrant, new creative voices. She offers a reconsideration of "afro-outr " painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, the concept of "race-pride" in Jet magazine, and her take on Denzel Washington's career as a complex black male icon in a post-affirmative action era. Also available is Alexander's much heralded essay on Rodney King, Emmett Till, and the collective memory of racial violence.
Alexander, who has been a professor at the University of Chicago and Smith College, and recently at Yale University, has taught and lectured on African American art and culture across the country and abroad for nearly two decades. In The Black Interior, she directs her scrupulous poet's eye to the urgent cultural issues of the day. This lively collection is a crucial volume for understanding current thinking on race, art, and culture in America.
Shaking the Tree offers a panorama of both fiction and memoir, revealing perspectives as diverse as they are dynamic: asha bandele recounts how she fell in love with a prisoner charged with murder; Rebecca Walker explores a childhood split between disparate racial and cultural landscapes; ZZ Packer remembers her near-abduction from summer camp at a time when local black children were being found murdered; Danzy Senna and Carolyn Ferrell tell tales about being young and biracial in a society that sees only in black and white.
This anthology is as urgent as it is historical--these voices are the future of American literature.
FROM THE POET the Chicago Tribune calls "the new voice of Chicago," comes L-vis Lives , a bold new collection of poetry and prose exploring the collision of race, art, and appropriation in American culture.L-vis is an imagined persona, a representation of artists who have used and misused Black music. Like so many others who gained fame and fortune from their sampling, L-vis is as much a sincere artist as he is a thief. In Kevin Coval's poems, L-vis' story is equal parts forgotten history, autobiography, and re-imaginings. We see shades of Elvis Presley, the Beastie Boys, and Eminem, and meet some of history's more obscure "whiteboy" heroes and anti-heroes: legendary breakdancers, political activists, and music impresarios. A story of both artistic theft and radical invention, L-vis Lives is a poetic novella on all of the possibilities and problems of "post-racial" American culture--where Black art is still at times only fully accepted in a white face, and every once in a while an "L-vis" comes along to step in to the void. i am a hero
to most. the great hope
of something other.
a complex back-story.
something other than
the business of my father.
jim crow's black sheep.
the forgotten son
left to rise in the darkness
among the dis
carded in the wild
of working class, single
mother hoods. a hero
who translates the dis
satisfactions of the plains;
kids of kurt cobain,
method man amphetamine,
the odd Iowan who digs dirt
and lights beyond the pig yard,
spits nebraskan argot,
hero to the heart
land, middle brow(n) america
Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Malcolm X--their words speak firmly, eloquently, personally of the impact of white America on the lives of African-Americans. Black autobiographical discourses, from the earliest slave narratives to the most contemporary urban raps, have each in their own way gauged and confronted the character of white society. For Crispin Sartwell, as philosopher, cultural critic, and white male, these texts, through their exacting insights and external perspective, provide a rare opportunity, a means of glimpsing and gaining access to contents and core of white identity.There is, Sartwell contends, a fundamental elusiveness to that identity. Whiteness defines itself as normative, as a neutral form of the human condition, marking all other forms of identity as racial or ethnic deviations. Invisible to itself, white identity seeks to define its essence over and against those other identities, in effect defining itself through opposition and oppression. By maintaining fictions of black licentiousness, violence, and corruption, white identity is able to cast itself as humane, benevolent, and pure; the stereotype fabricates not only the oppressed but the oppressor as well. Sartwell argues that African-American autobiography perceives white identity from a particular and unique vantage point; one that is knowledgeable and intimate, yet fundamentally removed from the white world and thus unencumbered by its obfuscating claims to normativity. Throughout this provocative work, Sartwell steadfastly recognizes the many ways in which he too is implicated in the formulation and perpetuation of racial attitudes and discourse. In Act Like You Know, he challenges both himself and others to take a long, hard look in the mirror of African-American autobiography, and to find there, in the light of those narratives, the visible features of white identity.
Slave narratives were one of the earliest forms of African American writing. These works, autobiographical in nature, later fostered other pieces of African American autobiography. Since the rise of Black Studies in the late 1960s, leading critics have constructed black lives and letters as antitheses of the ways and writings of mainstream American culture. According to such thinking, black writing stems from a set of experiences very different from the world of whites, and black autobiography must therefore differ radically from heroic white American tales. But in pointing to differences between black and white autobiographical works, these critics have overlooked the similarities. This volume argues that the African American autobiography is a continuation of the epic tradition, much as the prose narratives of voyage by white Americans in the nineteenth century likewise represent the evolution of the epic genre. The book makes clear that the writers of black autobiography have shared and shaped American culture, and that their works are very much a part of American literature.
An introductory essay provides a theoretical framework for the chapters that follow. It discusses the origins of African American autobiography and the larger themes of the epic tradition that are common to the works of both black and white authors. The book then pairs representative African American autobiographies with similar works by white writers. Thus the volume matches Olaudah Equiano's slave narrative with The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave with Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl with Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall. The study indicates that these various works all recognize the importance of learning as a means for attaining freedom. The final chapter provides a broad survey of the African American autobiography.
Winner - Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award
Holiday Gift Guide Selection - Indiewire, San Francisco Chronicle, and Minneapolis Star-Tribune
These nearly 150 African American folktales animate our past and reclaim a lost cultural legacy to redefine American literature.
A study of three Black Power narratives as instruments for radical social change Angela Davis, Assata Shakur (a.k.a. JoAnne Chesimard), and Elaine Brown are the only women activists of the Black Power movement who have published book-length autobiographies. In bearing witness to that era, these militant newsmakers wrote in part to educate and to mobilize their anticipated readers. In this way, Davis's Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974), Shakur's Assata (1987), and Brown's A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story (1992) can all be read as extensions of the writers' political activism during the 1960s. Margo V. Perkins's critical analysis of their books is less a history of the movement (or of women's involvement in it) than an exploration of the politics of storytelling for activists who choose to write their lives. Perkins examines how activists use autobiography to connect their lives to those of other activists across historical periods, to emphasize the link between the personal and the political, and to construct an alternative history that challenges dominant or conventional ways of knowing. The histories constructed by these three women call attention to the experiences of women in revolutionary struggle, particularly to the ways their experiences have differed from men's. The women's stories are told from different perspectives and provide different insights into a movement that has been much studied from the masculine perspective. At times they fill in, complement, challenge, or converse with the stories told by their male counterparts, and in doing so, hint at how the present and future can be made less catastrophic because of women's involvement. The multiple complexities of the Black Power movement become evident in reading these women's narratives against each other as well as against the sometimes strikingly different accounts of their male counterparts. As Davis, Shakur, and Brown recount events in their lives, they dispute mainstream assumptions about race, class, and gender and reveal how the Black Power struggle profoundly shaped their respective identities. Recipient of Mississippi University for Women's Eudora Welty Prize, 1999 Margo V. Perkins is an assistant professor of English and American studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.