The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride: A Rediscovered African-American Novel

Julia C. Collins, Author, William L. Andrews, Editor, Mitch Kachun, Editor , edited by William L. Andrews and Mitch Kachun. Oxford Univ. $25 (139p) ISBN 978-0-19-530159-5 ISBN 978-0-19-530160-1

First issued serially by the Christian Register in 1865 and then lost to archival oblivion, this novel by Williamsport, Pa., resident Collins will revise the chronology of African-American literature. It is, according to Andrews and Kachun (professors of English and history, respectively), the "first serialized novel by an African American woman and the first non-autobiographical novel to be authored by a historically verified African American woman"—displacing previous claimants Harriet Wilson (Our Nig ) and Hannah Crafts (The Bondswoman's Narrative ). Its heroine, "strangely, wildly, and darkly beautiful" Claire Neville, knows nothing of her parentage and can't get the answers from "old beloved nurse" Juno (who definitely knows). After finishing school (courtesy of a mystery patron), she takes a position as a governess for a New Orleans family. The revelations and tearful encounters spiral out from there, and one must surrender to the silent movie spirit in which a pure, innocent young woman's happiness is threatened by a "villain [with] a heart black as the shadows of Hades." The editors provide a wealth of secondary material, but it's not necessary for readers to have a ball with this utterly wild novel. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/28/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Paperback - 139 pages - 978-0-19-530160-1
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