Category Archives: Afro-American Lit

A New Perspective in the New Year

A champagne toast in a Atlantis Bookstore in Santorini

A champagne toast in a Atlantis Bookstore in Santorini

Happy New Year from the Afro-Librarians!

We hope you all enjoyed the holiday season and are starting the new year with new goals, resolutions and fresh perspectives.  Here in the afro-library we are preparing a series of posts for the month of January that re-examine the African American literary genre.  The first three posts include:

1) The Role of Biography in African American Thought

2) Back to the Woodshed: What Is African American Literature

3) Does African American Literature Exist A review of Kenneth Warren’s critical essays

In these and subsequent posts, we will revisit the construction of the African American literary canon.  What is African American literature?  What makes it great? Who is included in the African American literary canon and is their inclusion justified?

Admittedly, this is quite an ambitious way to begin the new year but we welcome challenges in 2014!

Stay tuned . . . .

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What He’s Reading

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Pulitzer Prize winning genius Edward P Jones hit the ball out of the park with his debut novel.  Vivid, descriptive, and captivating, The Known World deserves a standing ovation. Few authors effectively utilize “stream of consciousness” but Jones makes this technique appear effortless, adding difficulty by combining narratives from the past present and future.

But don’t take my word for it (in Levar Burton voice), below is an excerpt:

“His oldest child from his second marriage, Matthew, stayed up all the night before he was buried, putting his father’s history on a wooden tombstone. He began with his father’s name on the first line, and on the next, he put the years ofhis father’s coming and going. Then all the things he knew his father had been. Husband. Father. Farmer. Grandfather. Patroller. Tobacco Man. Tree Maker. The letters ofthe words got smaller and smaller as the boy, not quite twelve, neared the bottom ofthe wood because he had never made a headstone for anyone before so he had not compensated for all that he would have to put on it. The boy filled up the whole piece ofwood and at the end of the last line he put a period. His father’s grave would remain, but the wooden marker would not last out the year. The boy knew better than to put a period at the end ofsuch a sentence. Something that was not even a true and proper sentence, with subject aplenty, but no verb to pull it all together. A sentence, Matthew’s teacher back in Virginia had tried to drum into his thick Kinsey head, could live without a subject, but it could not live without a verb.”

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What She’s Reading

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Kaffir Boy – My never-ending search for auto-ethnographic texts (stay tuned for a post on this in the future), led me to this classic.  Inspired by Richard Wright’s  Black Boy, Kaffir Boy is an autobiographical narrative that explores Mark Mathabane’s childhood during South Africa’s apartheid.  Introspective and analytical, this novel is simply captivating.

Philosophical Meditations on Richard Wright – Written by one of the authors of this blog *winks and looks over at him*, this text explores Richard Wright from a philosophical, psychological, and sociological perspective.  Although this book is written for academics, I found it to be very engaging and even paradigm shifting in terms of perspective on Wright’s work.

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10 Great Opening Lines in Afro-Literature

Every great writer knows the importance of the opening text. Not only is it the author’s first shot at engaging the reader, it also sets the tone for the entire novel.  A truly great incipit, as evidenced by the examples below, will also foreshadow theme, structure, plot and even conflict.

Let’s face it, a strong opening is perhaps the best indication of a strong text.  So let’s take a look at a few of the most profound within the Afro-literary genre:

“On the morning of her ninth birthday, the day after Madame Francoise Derbane slapped her, Suzette peed on the rosebushes.” – Lalita Tademy, Cane River

“You better not never tell nobody but God.” – Alice Walker, The Color Purple

“We are on our way to Budapest: Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me.” – NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names

“A dwelling.” – Nuruddin Farah, From a Crooked Rib

“I was not sorry when my brother died.” – Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions

“124 was spiteful.” – Toni Morrison, Beloved

“Early in the morning, late in the century, Cricklewood Broadway.” – Zadie Smith, White Teeth

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish aboard.” – Zora Neal Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

“In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry.” – Ben Okri, The Famished Road

“They say it came from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles.” – Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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Filed under African Lit, Afro-American Lit, Afro-Caribbean Lit, Afro-European Lit