Monday, December 17, 2012

The Death of African American Literature

[By Jerry Ward]

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
John 2.18

Most scholars, writers, and readers might agree that African American literature consists of orature (oral literary creations) and writings by people of African descent in the United States from the colonial period to the present. Once we move beyond so simple a definition, we forced to navigate a swamp of competing claims.

The definition of what was called Negro literature from the colonial period up to the 1960s was challenged by two of LeRoi Jones' (Amiri Baraka's) essays ---"Myth of a Negro Literature" and "Black Writing" --in Home: Social Essays (New York: William Morrow, 1966). Following the spirit of Richard Wright's "Blueprint for Negro Writing" (1937), Baraka argued successfully that Negro literature was created more for the inspection of white people than as a body of work that directly addressed the needs of African Americans; he called for black writing or black (African American) literature that would speak directly to black people. Thus, a new definition of African American literature came into being in the 1960s.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

4 Novels: Veterans in African American Literature

[Compiled By Goyland Williams]

Recently, I noticed the connections between Toni Morrison’s Sula and her newest novel, Home. In both novels, Morrison captures both the pain and sheer violence that African American veterans still endure many years after they have returned home from combat. Whether it is Shadrack-the shell shocked veteran of World War 1 who institutes “National Suicide Day” or Frank Money-the 24 year old Korean War Veteran who simply wanted to escape “the worst place in the world”, both narrative emphasize the lasting horrors and enduring trauma of war.

What is most interesting to me is that Morrison’s work is just a part of a larger African American continuum from Chester Himes to Junius Edwards. All of their work, to some extent, depicts the impact of racial, psychological, and personal problems of African American soldiers.

I have compiled a list of four novels by African American writers that place an emphasis on black men who were affected by participating in American wars.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reading List: 5 African American Books for the Winter Holidays

[By Goyland Williams]

With the holiday season fast approaching, I have begun to compile my reading list for the Christmas and New Years break. Ranging from Jesmyn Ward to Percival Everett, my reading list is comprised of black writers whose work seeks to expand our conception of how black identity is constructed and how we conceive of those persons living on the margins of society.

In some ways, Morrison’s Home provides a revisionist history of the 1950s America to disrupt the “Leave it to Beaver” image that many have about the period and show the struggles that existed under the surface of black American culture.  Tananarive Due, on the other hand, offers Afro-futuristic visions about the healing power of music in her speculative story set in the not too distant future.  

My holiday reading list consists of five works of fiction written by black writers published within the last two years.