Monday, September 15, 2014

Afro-Latin@ Writers and Scholars: Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

[by Meredith Wiggins]

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15), the HBW Blog will be featuring short weekly posts on Afro-Latin@ writers and scholars.  We begin our series with Arturo Alfonso Schomburg.

When Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a young boy attending school in Puerto Rico, one of his teachers told him and his classmates that people of African descent had no history or accomplishments worth celebrating, no heroes worthy of the name--in short, that there was nothing noteworthy in their past or present.

Schomburg always remembered that teacher's words. Born in 1874 to a freeborn Black midwife and a mestizo merchant of German ancestry, the Afroborinqueño (or Black Puerto Rican) Schomburg used the outrage he felt that day to fuel a life devoted to honoring the history, culture and accomplishments of Black people, including fellow Afro-Latin@s. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fight Media Hegemony with a Trickster's Critique: Ishmael Reed's Faction about O.J. and Media Lynching

[by Yuqing Lin]

Editor's Note: The Project HBW Blog mostly traffics in shorter pieces, but from time to time we like to present our readers with a longer piece, as well, in a feature we call Taking the Long View.  For this installment, we feature scholar Yuqing Lin's insightful, challenging review of Ishmael Reed's recent novel Juice! Thanks to HBW Lead Blogger Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr., for passing along this piece of scholarship.

Ishmael Reed’s new novel Juice! (2011) focuses on the American media and, dissecting their exploitation of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, its manipulation of public consciousness. By tracking years of news and commentaries in media, Reed shows the segregated media’s sick obsession with O. J. and the black male image, and uncovers the hypocrisy of “post-race” racial politics. Under his scrutiny, the reader finds that with the social climate turning right and more conservative, media discourse is becoming more totalitarian under corporate operation. Reed dissolves the traditional novel plot and juxtaposes reality and imagination by using news clips, cartoons, scientific documents, and court transcripts. The novel includes both human and animal characters connecting Reed’s work to thousands of years of North American storytelling. Reed’s grandmother on his father’s side was a Cherokee Indian. He constructs a narrative space to question the segregated media’s bias and racism.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Jamaica Kincaid, the American Book Awards, and the Limits of Autobiography

[By Meredith Wiggins]

On August 14, the 19 honorees for the 2014 American Book Awards were announced.  Among them was Jamaica Kincaid, the Antiguan-American semi-autobiographical novelist and essayist recognized for See Now Then (2013), her first novel since 2002's Mr. Potter.

The American Book Awards recognize "excellence in American literature without restriction or bias with regard to race, sex, creed, cultural origin, size of press or ad budget, or even genre."  Now in their 35th year, the ABAs have no set categories, no nominees, not even a standard number of awards; instead, Ishmael Reed's Before Columbus Foundation allows the "natural process" of diversity to occur, recognizing the multiculturalism that the BCF sees as the inherent definition of American literature.    

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

HBW and the Blog: A Note from the New Editor

[By Meredith Wiggins]

In 2011, Kenton Rambsy created the HBW Blog with the aim of "extend[ing] the efforts of HBW by identifying and highlighting topics related to African American and America literature."  He particularly wanted to draw attention to "black literary history, contemporary developments in the production of black writing, digital humanities, and literary scholarship that pertains to African American writers."

Around this time last year, Goyland Williams announced that he had taken over as editor-in-chief of the HBW Blog.  He shepherded the blog through HBW's thirtieth anniversary, spearheading the "Looking Back" Video Series that highlighted the contributions of current and former HBW contributors, like HBW founder Dr. Maryemma Graham, lead HBW Blogger Jerry W. Ward, Jr., Eugene Redmond, and Michael Eric Dyson.

With Goyland and Kenton both moving on to pursue other opportunities in their academic careers, I have been given the opportunity to assume the mantle of editor-in-chief by taking responsibility for the day-to-day running of the blog.  I'm also taking on the role of Project Digital Initiative Coordinator, helping to continue and expand HBW's digital presence through social media and the digital humanities.

Who am I?