Unfinished Masterpiece: The Harlem Renaissance Fiction of Anita Scott Coleman

Anita Scott Coleman, Author, Laurie Champion, Editor, Bruce A. Glasrud, Editor . Texas Tech Univ. $22.95 (189p) ISBN 978-0-89672-629-1

Coleman (1890–1960) was a black woman born in Mexico and raised in the American Southwest. Her connection to the Harlem Renaissance is mostly temporal, but that doesn’t detract from this book’s appeal. The 21 short stories it gathers, arranged chronologically, grow more somber and complex over time. “Rich Man, Poor Man—” features a white rancher’s daughter falling for a black chauffeur: it’s typical of the early group (published 1919–1922) in its domestic plot, happy ending and tangential treatment of race. The tenor shifts in the 10 stories of 1926–1933: the women are fallen or falling; secrets (a slave past, passing) tumble out; an antiblack riot erupts at the center of “The Brat.” Things get very ominous in “Cross Crossings Cautiously,” when a five-year-old white girl asks a black man to the circus, and off they go. Coleman’s perspective extends and challenges conventional notions about the settings, characters and themes of early 20th-century African-American fiction. Her work is entertaining for the general reader and historically significant for the scholar. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/24/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
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