African American Writing: A Literary Approach

Werner Sollors. Temple Univ., $35 (296p) ISBN 978-1-4399-1337-6
Sollors (Neither Black nor White yet Both), a professor of African-American studies and English at Harvard, assembles 12 previously published essays that collectively offer an illuminating and fresh introduction to African-American writers. Together, they constitute a cohesive vision of major writers from the 18th through the 20th century. Sollors’s aim is not a general history but to show his subjects “as readers and as intellectuals who were open to the world.” They include Amiri Baraka, Olaudah Equiano, Zora Neale Hurston, Adrienne Kennedy, and Richard Wright. Two essays are particularly notable: “African American Intellectuals and Europe between the Two World Wars,” on how African-American authors such as Claude McKay and Nella Larsen interacted with European artists, and “W.E.B. Du Bois in Nazi Germany, 1936,” on the “rare case of an early examination of Nazi rule... by a German-speaking, Harvard- and Berlin-trained African American.” Artful biographies and synopses contribute to the work’s general accessibility. At one point, Sollors quotes Jean Toomer on one of Toomer’s short stories: “Most people cannot see this story because of the inhibitory baggage they bring with them.” In reading these writers as creators and peers of their artistic contemporaries, Sollors lightens that inhibitory baggage as he enlightens the reader. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-1-4399-1336-9
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