Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Significance of Novel Time Period

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Novels, in many ways, serve as historical sketches of black culture as authors re-envision a range of significant moments from the past. The mid-nineteenth century stands out as a recurring focal point for numerous writers with several novels set in the mid-1800s or with flashbacks to the Post-Civil War era

Authors who have published novels in the early 1900s such as Charles Chesnutt and Oscar Micheaux as well as those who published in the second half of the 20th century such as Ernest Gaines and Margaret Walker offer representations of black life during the mid to late 1800s. Octavia Butler’s Patternmaster (1976), Parable of the Sower (1993), and Parable of the Talents (1998), however, are the only novels out of our study’s 100 that depict the future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Prominence of NYC, Chicago, and California

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Given the larger history of slavery in America, the South has always figured prominently into the geographic settings of African American literature since the publication of William Wells Brown’s Clotel in 1853. However, the results of our study reveal that there has been a tendency among novelists to set their narratives in urban spaces, especially New York City and icago. 

Various locations throughout California also appear to be regular points of interest, as Los Angeles and San Francisco appear in novels by Walter Mosley, Octavia Butler, and Terry McMillan.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Growing Importance of Formal Education

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Every living author in our study that has published a novel since 1980 has completed a college degree of some sort. Prior to 1980, it was less likely that authors of major African American novels published had attended college. Notably, over half of the novelists who published books after 1980 received advanced graduate degrees.

Percival Everett, author of Erasure (2001) received a B.A. from the University of Miami and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from Brown University in 1982. Tayari Jones, author of Leaving Atlanta (2002) received a B.A. from Spelman College and an MFA from Arizona State University in 2000. And, Paul Beatty, author of The White Boy Shuffle (1996) received a B.A. from Boston University and an MFA from Brooklyn College in 1989.

Out of 63 authors:
- 63%, or 40 have a college degree;
- 11% or 7 have an MFA;
- 27% or 17 hold a graduate degree of some sort

Monday, December 5, 2011

49 African American Novels on Wikipedia

[Compiled By Kenton Rambsy]

The following list showcases novels in our “100 Novels Project” and their corresponding Wikipedia pages. Out of 100 novels in our project, 49 novels have Wikipedia pages of some sort.

We have organized the novels into three categories and by chronological order: Extensive, General, and Limited Overviews:

  • Extensive overviews offer publication information, plot summaries, character lists, references to pop culture and criticism (such as TV, Movie adaptations, etc.) as well as major motifs.
  • General overviews provide a general plot summary and, sometimes, historical information concerning the novel as well as critical reception.
  • Limited overviews provide publication information and a short/concise summary of the novel.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Growing Importance of Authors Awarded Fellowships

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Nella Larsen- First Black Woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship (1930)

The Guggenheim Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) have been consistent sources of support for large numbers of critically acclaimed African American novelists.  Approximately 54% out of the 63 novelists in our study have received a fellowship of some kind—seven have received the MacArthur Foundation award, thirteen have received a Guggenheim, and eleven have received NEA awards.

Ishmael Reed author of Mumbo Jumbo (1972) received both a Guggenheim and an NEA award, Charles Johnson author of Middle Passage (1990) received MacArthur and Guggenheim awards, and Suzan-LoriParks author of Getting Mother’s Body (2003) received Guggenheim, MacArthur, and NEA awards. Nella Larsen, author of Quicksand (1928), was the first Black Woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship (1930)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Evolution of Novel Covers

[By Kenton Rambsy]

 Since winning the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) has gone on to gain wide attention in both academic and pop culture circles.  he 1998 movie adaptation of the novel starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover has even influenced subsequent print editions, particularly, the design of the novel covers.

The publishers often used enticing images such as Hollywood actors and movie stills to market the book after the release of the film. Similar to Beloved, other novels turned into feature films were reprinted with book covers that signaled the movie tie-ins.

After the break, take a look and contrast a sampling of Morrison's Beloved Novel Covers over the years.