Wednesday, October 29, 2014

LGBT History Month: Giovanni's Room, by James Baldwin

[by Meredith Wiggins]

In honor of LGBT History Month, the HBW Blog is featuring posts on foundational queer texts by African American authors.  Today, we discuss James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room (1956).
After the triumphant publication of his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, in 1953, James Baldwin found himself facing a new dilemma in his still-young life as a writer.  "I realized that I was being corraled [sic] into another trap," he would later say. "[N]ow I was a writer, a Negro writer, and I was expected to write diminishing versions of Go Tell It on the Mountain forever.  Which I refused to do."

His need to break free of the authorial constraints placed on him led Baldwin to write a very different follow-up novel.  Where Go Tell It was semi-autobiographical, set in Harlem, and dealt directly with issues facing the African American community, Giovanni's Room (1956) featured an all-white cast of characters and was set largely in Paris.

Most importantly, it was also explicitly about a love affair between two men.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Teaching Black Writing in Wuhan

[by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.] 

Teaching graduate students in the School of Foreign Languages at Central China Normal University is rewarding. They are less jaded and more receptive than their American peers, more conscious that a university education is a privilege rather than an entitlement dispensed by a secular god. Lacking familiarity with our democratic hypocrisies and noteworthy disdain for humanistic inquiry, most Chinese students bring innocence to the study of foreign literatures. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

HBW Open House and Jayhawk Sneak Peek Weekend

[by Meredith Wiggins]

On October 16 and 17, six prospective graduate students from across the United States visited KU as part of the second annual Jayhawk Sneak Peek Weekend, an initiative dedicated to increasing graduate student diversity in the English Department through recruiting students from traditionally under-enrolled populations.

Excited to play a part in this important weekend, HBW elected to hold our official Open House while the prospective students were in town.  Partnering with the Sneak Peek Committee to provide a brunch for visitors, we opened our office doors to the KU campus in the hopes of sharing our work with a wider audience. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Afro-Latin@ Scholars and Writers: Junot Díaz

Today, as National Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, the HBW Blog finishes out its series on Afro-Latin@ writers and scholars with a short consideration of Junot Díaz.

In a 2011 interview with Fox News Latino, Dominican-American novelist, essayist, and short-story writer Junot Díaz spoke candidly about how, as an immigrant growing up in New Jersey, his Afro-Latino racial and ethnic heritage left him feeling doubly alienated in U.S. American culture.

"I was neither black enough for the black kids or Dominican enough for the Dominican kids," Díaz said. "I didn’t have a safe category."

The difficulty of searching for--much less finding--a safe category or stable identity is one of the central concerns of Díaz's highly acclaimed, genre-spanning work.