Claude McKay: A Black Poet's Struggle for Identity

Tyrone Tillery, Author
Tyrone Tillery, Author University of Massachusetts Press $27.5 (235p) ISBN 978-0-87023-762-1
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992
Release date: 02/01/1992
Ebook - 241 pages - 978-0-585-34496-6
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-0-87023-924-3
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Born in Clarendon Parish in Jamaica, poet and novelist Claude McKay (1890-1948) wrote in dialect and by 1912, when he left for the U.S., was known as ``the Robert Burns of Jamaica.'' In his depiction of McKay's stern father and nurturing mother, Tillery, history professor at Wayne State University, demonstrates the contradictions that were to become a permanent part of McKay's life. The book chronicles McKay's move to New York City, the failure of his marriage and of a business venture, the growing radicalism that would culminate in his trip in 1922 to Russia, and his return to become part of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1928 he wrote Home to Harlem , a novel (the first by a black to become a bestseller) illustrating his own--and those of other black artist and radicals--class, race and artistic struggles. McKay's later renunciation of communism and his conversion to Catholicism, his battle with syphilis and his death in Chicago of heart failure are detailed with sensitivity in this comprehensive critical biography. (Jan.)
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