Friday, October 30, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (10/23-10/30)

Last semester we posted an interview highlighting HBW's very own Crystal Bradshaw. After much anticipation, Crystal's memoir, Eliza: A Generational Journey, was recently released. Be on the lookout for a review of Crystal's book early next week!

Poet Gregory Pardlo asks, "What is it that is making me invisible?" Pardlo won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book Digest, and yet consistently interacts with people who have never heard of him or his work. Pardlo speculates that the lack of diversity in the publishing industry has created "blind spots" that allows writers of color such as himself to remain in the margins.

In NPR's All Things Considered, Toni-Tipton Martin explores the impact that African American women have had on American Cuisine through her new book The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks. Martin attempts to break the "code" or stereotype that African American women only cooked obscure and inconsequential food. Instead, she argues much of the food that African American women chefs cooked have become staples of the American diet, despite the ongoing stereotype of "black food."

D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was a big hit with white audiences, but its "racial distortions of the Civil War and Reconstruction-era United States" offended many African Americans. In response, Emmett J. Scott began filming his own movie, The Birth of a Race, to contest Griffith's film and offer a more accurate representation of African Americans in history. Unfortunately, filming came to a halt half way through and the footage was thrown away. Scott's prospectus still exists and remains the only print evidence of the movie's existence.

The e-book vs. print battle - which book is winning? While there was an initial mass hysteria by print book publishers when e-books were released, recent data shows the battle is beginning to level. But, there's more...

"Black Women Matter, a Poem," by Raven Davidson. Davidson is a graduate student at Illinois State University. Her poem speaks to her experience as a queer black woman.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Project on the History of Black Writing Presents: A Webinar with Sharan Strange

Please join the University of Kansas' Project on the History of Black Writing and the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute "Black Poetry after the Black Arts Movement" as we present our first 2015 webinar with poet Sharan Strange.

Sharan Strange

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
3:00 PM EDT / 2:00 PM CDT / 1:00 PM MDT / 12:00 PM PDT

This webinar is part of a series of live, online discussions with a prominent group of intergenerational award winning poets to be held Fall 2015. The general public and students of all levels are invited to attend.

Please share this invitation widely with your colleagues and students. The webinar is FREE and all are invited to attend.

After registering, you'll be automatically emailed a link to join the webinar live on Wednesday, October 28th.


Robert Warrior and Indigenous Intellectual Health: A Recap

On Tuesday, October 20th, the University of Kansas welcomed Robert Warrior as he spoke on his latest research at the Hall Center for the Humanities. Dr. Stephanie Fitzgerald, professor of Native American literature at KU, had the honor of introducing Dr. Warrior. The presentation, titled “Reading for Indigenous Intellectual Health: Some Methodological Considerations,” drew a large crowd from the University of Kansas community, students and faculty alike. Intellectual Health is a term that embodies, but is not limited to, language revitalization, strengthening of community, and a healing knowledge (taking root both in body and in mind).

Friday, October 23, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (10/16-10/23)

Kevin Powell, author of recent memoir The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy's Journey into Manhood, offered an excerpt from his book to the Huffington Post. If you haven't had a chance to read the book, you can read an excerpt from chapter two here.

B.B. King, Mahalia Jackson, Dalla Reese, Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins. What do all of these names have in common? Reminisce in the past with Benny Joseph's photographs which capture the essence of Rhythm and Blues throughout the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's.

A voice from the past, watch James Baldwin speak on the race problem in 1968, a problem that continues to persist today.

Echoes from the Birmingham Church Bombing linger as St. Louis area churches continue to subjected to arson.

Poet Zaji's book When We Were One is a must read according to USA Today. Writing in the genre of speculative fiction, the book "honors women and their relationships, and it honors men and their connection to women, while taking readers on a tour through memories of days gone. It is a journey that uncovers the soul of women and the spiritual miles they have trodden." Learn more about the author and her newest book here.

HBW welcomed its newest addition, Portia Owusu, with a brief interview and spotlight piece in The Project on the Future of Black Writing. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Project on the Future of Black Writing: Portia Owusu

Editor's Note: HBW consistently seeks out new and upcoming scholars that contribute to the canon of black literature. We feel that this new generation of scholars is crucial to both adding to and critiquing existing scholarship. HBW presents The Project on the Future of Black Writing. 

Portia Owusu first came to KU as an exchange student in 2006, where she first encountered the work of HBW. She enjoyed the experience and work with Dr. Graham so much, she decided to return a long nine years later. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Portia and learn more about her background and her studies.

Me: Portia, tell me about yourself.

Portia: I would describe myself as British-Ghanaian because I was born in Ghana but grew up in London, England. In hindsight, I would describe my upbringing as a privilege that has positively impacted my academic and personal interests because living in London, which is multicultural city (owing to the fact that it was once centre of the British Empire), I was immersed in the British culture whilst at the same time interacting with people from all over the world. This, in addition to the Akan culture I was exposed to at home, developed my interest in histories and literatures from different geographical spaces.

Me: You are here writing the dissertation for your PhD, correct? Tell me about your academic past. What are some of your current interests and projects?

Portia: I have a BA (Honours) in English and American Literature from the University of Kent; MA in Postcolonial Literatures from the University of York and currently, I am pursuing a PhD in West African and African-American literature (looking at slavery and the politics of history and memory in both bodies of literature) at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I am currently in the dissertation phase of my PhD and the chapter I am working on now is examining the uses of memory in Amiri Baraka's The Slave Ship.

The Project on the History of Black Writing frames itself in both a domestic and international presence, and many of our projects deal not only with African American literature but black people across the world. Portia's contributions to Project HBW help us to continue to expand and solidify the project's international influence.

[By Matthew Broussard]

Friday, October 16, 2015

Calling All Writers: Project HBW Wants You!

The Project on the History of Black Writing is always looking for innovative works to post to our blog. We publish critical works, book reviews, creative pieces, and many other works relevant to black writing and culture. Please review older and archived posts to get an idea of what we typically post. If you would like to contribute to the HBW blog, send your work to Submitted works should be between 4-6 paragraphs in length, and HBW reserves the right to edit works before they go live.

We look forward to hearing from you! Please spread the word if you know of anyone who would make a good contributor!

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (10/9-10-16)

Author Marlon James became the first Jamaican born writer to win the Man Booker prize. Marlon's book, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is an epic retelling of the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley. Listen to James's interview with NPR here.

The complete list of finalists were released for this years National Book Award.

Bill Johnson II of the Huffington Post's Black Voices thinks that you should read these 9 books if you are a black male.

Recently released book of poetry, The Emperor of Water Clocks by Yusef Komunyakaa, speaks on matters of Ferguson, Obama, and war.

Author Ishmael Reed released his newest book Black Hollywood Unchained this week which examines portrayals of blacks in film. Reed released The Complete Muhammad Ali earlier this summer, a biography of one of the greatest boxers to live.

Henry Louis Gates was a guest speaker in the Medgar Wiley Evers Lecture Series. Gates spoke on genealogy and genetics in America. Read his interview with Jackson Free Press in which he discussed "Black America's Promises and Perils."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Situation Report from a Culture of Reading: Part 2

Editor's note: two weeks ago we posted Situation Report from a Culture of Reading: Part 1. Below is part 2 of the post. 

To the slave, revolution is an imperative, a love-inspired, conscious act of desperation. It’s aggressive. It isn’t “cool” or cautious. It’s bold, audacious, violent, an expression of icy, disdainful hatred! It can hardly be any other way without raising a fundamental contradiction.

George Jackson, Blood in My Eye (1972)

Serendipity allows you to happen upon humorous insights.  Ralph Ellison was one of the most elegant prose writers of the twentieth-century. You find aesthetic pleasure in his writing as well as less than obvious evidence of self-contradiction. From time to time, Ellison was out to brunch. In his essay “Stephen Crane and the Mainstream of American Fiction” (1960), Ellison justly praised Crane for looking “steadily at the wholeness of American life” and for discovering “far-reaching symbolic equivalents for its unceasing state of civil war.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

ICYMI: The Week in Black Writing and Culture (10/2-10/9)

Dr. Jerry W. Ward Jr. reviewed author Kevin Powell's newest book, The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy's Journey into Manhood.

Last week was Banned Books Week. See HBW's recap here.

At the New Yorker festival, Toni Morrison spoke out on topics ranging from her writing to race relations, both past and present.

Maya Angelou's art collection sold for 1.3 million dollars at auction. Anglou, civil rights activist and author of the best selling novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, died last year at the age of 86.

The Root revisited The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

In NPR's segment CodeSwitch, author D. Watkins spoke about his newest book. The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America details Watkins's experience growing up in the drug infested area of East Balimore during the crack era.

Janelle Harris wrote a letter for Beautiful Project's #dearblackgirl campaign. The campaign encouraged readers to write letters to young black girls as a way to encourage a love of one's self.

Jarrett Carter of HBCU Digest discussed the controversial issue of affirmative action. Will eradicating affirmative action help renew an interest in HBCUs?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reading Kevin Powell's Education

Powell, Kevin. The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy's Journey into Manhood. New York: Atria Books, 2015

Autobiography is one of the more intriguing mixed genres of American writing. Elizabeth Bruss' Autobiographical Acts: The Changing Situation of a Literary Genre (1976) may lead us to believe that the "rules" governing autobiography are stricter than those which pertain to drama, poetry, and fiction; awareness that generic "rules" are based on abstractions from histories of reading, however, invite us to amend them in our acts of interpretation, in the acts we commit in order to grasp the meaning of texts. We are willing to break them. We allow the writer of autobiography great latitude in arranging language and rhetorical devices in her or his effort to bear witness to "a truth, " because we associate the truth of what happened with the individual's confessional, psychological ego-investments. Adjustments, exaggerations, forgetting and remembering, and selective displacements are in motion as part of the shared authority of the writer and the reader. Our own egos and needs are implicated in judgments about what is true or false. So too are our ideas about collective features of life histories. What social and cultural conditions are the powerful motives in the act of writing? What counts most in our reading and interpretation of autobiography, perhaps, is the sense that the narrator as well as the persona who stands in for a Self are reliable. We demand, in most cases, assurances that the autobiography is more than an absurd, commercial gimmick or a game of linguistic wilding. If the assurances fail, we are not devastated. We all understand how American citizens "play" one another. These considerations allow us to have a rich transaction with The Education of Kevin Powell

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Banned Books Week Recap (September 27-October 3)

In case you missed it, last week (September 27-October 3) was Banned Books Week. Put on by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week highlights books frequently challenged and banned by schools, libraries, and the media. This exhibition serves as a great opportunity to analyze the books in question, encourage discussion, and question the harm of censorship. What makes a book banned? A book can be challenged or banned for something as simple as vulgar language, being deemed unsuitable for the intended age group, reinforcing stereotypes, depictions of homosexuality, and a multitude of other reasons.

Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming, recently made the banned books list. In the Washington Post article "It's Banned Books Week again. Can we stop yelling at each other about it?" Woodson speaks out about using the week as an opportunity to promote "greater dialogue, less shouting." The Young People's Poet Laureate questions what good comes from sheltering children from what is deemed inappropriate content. Admittedly, she has pulled books from her own children's shelves, but acknowledges that many times the child is of age to handle the material and yet, out of fear, the parent is the one who isn't ready.

Friday, October 2, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (9/25-10/2)

In NPR's Code Switch segment, Beenish Ahmen highlighted the life and work of writer Henry Dumas. I, admittedly, haven't read many of Dumas's works, but he will now be added to my list of authors to read!

Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Mehas been named a finalist for the National Book Awards. His book is a letter to his son addressing racism and police violence, a topic Coates has frequently written on.

Keep an eye out for Kevin Powell's new book The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy's Journey into Manhood. Powell's memoir attempts to grapple with the racism and poverty he experienced as a boy and his subsequent transition into manhood.

The New York Times reviewed Michael Javen Fortner's book Black Silent MajorityFortner argues that the origins of the war on drugs had "less to do with white resistance to racial equality and more to do with the black silent majority's confrontation with the 'reign of criminal terror'."

Photographer and MacArthur Genius Grant Award winner LaToya Ruby Frazier was interviewed by NPR. In her latest collection, Frazier chose to photograph her hometown of Braddock, PA to pay tribute to the African American history and contributions to the steel industry on which the town was built.

In light of historical bias against minority writers when it comes to inclusion in anthologies, the Asian American Writer's Workshop has created a pen name generator, producing white-coded names, to help writers with ethnic names compete on an equal level with their white counterparts. Thoughts?