Why I Left America, and Other Essays

Oliver W. Harrington, Author, M. Thomas Inge, Editor, Julia Wright, Foreword by University Press of Mississippi $20 (113p) ISBN 978-0-87805-655-2
Cartoonist, fine artist and self-exiled African American, Harrington reflects on his life in this collection of nine autobiographical essays, reprinted mainly from magazines in the 1960s and 1970s. Born in 1912 and raised in the South Bronx, he began in 1935 a cartoon series in the Amsterdam News featuring a wise fool named Bootsie; his work for the NAACP subjected Harrington to charges of pro-Communism and he became an expatriate in 1951. He recalls his Paris friendship with author Richard Wright, ``a man of irrepressible vitality'' and hints at foul play in Wright's death in a French clinic in 1960. His accounts of life in raffish Harlem are rich. A Jewish grocer told young Ollie of Paul Robeson; later he and the performer began ``a treasured friendship.'' In France, Harrington found acceptance; though racism exists there, it's not oppressive, he reflects in the title essay, based on a speech he gave in Detroit in 1991. Harrington's criticism of American racism is potent, but his embrace of socialism seems, in retrospect, wishful. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1993
Release date: 10/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 978-0-87805-739-9
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