Centers of the Self: Stories by Black American Women from the Nineteenth Century to the Present

Judith A. Hamer, Author, Martin J. Hamer, Editor
Judith A. Hamer, Author, Martin J. Hamer, Editor Hill & Wang $10.95 (355p) ISBN 978-0-8090-1576-4
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Ranging from works by the largely unknown (Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Jessie Redmon Fauset) to those of the famous (Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker), this collection of 27 short stories by African American women is impressive equally for its marvelous array of characters and for a range of settings that include post-Civil War plantations and the contemporary inner city. Although only one story, Harper's ``Two Offers,'' dates from the last century (1859), as a whole the chronologically arranged tales underscore some recurring concerns of black women: abandonment by men, the maintaining of spiritual strength under the most adverse circumstances the search for identity and self-respect. As the stories move toward the present, the predominantly female protagonists move from denying to celebrating their heritage. In Alice Dunbar-Nelson's ``The Stones of the Village'' (1910), for instance, a young, black lawyer passes as white, while S.A. Williams's ``Tell Martha Not to Moan'' (1968) celebrates, as the Hamers put it in their informative introduction, ``the pattern of unflagging support of black mothers for their daughters.'' Complete with a short biography of each author, this is a rich sampler of the voices, narrative techniques and life experiences of African American women writers. (Oct.)
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