ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

Google
 

Urban street literature is currently sought-after and valued within the mainstream publishing

industry, its chief creators, among them Darrin Coleman, Terri Woods and Shannon Holmes,

to name only a few, now receiving impressive advances and multi-book deals

 

 

Books by Chester Himes

If He Hollers Let Him Go!  /  Cotton Comes to Harlem  / Rage in Harlem  / The Third-Generation  / Cast the First Stone

The Quality of Hurt: The Early Years: Autobiography  / My Life of Absurdity-Autobiography  /  The Collected Stories of Chester-Himes

The End of a Primitive  /  Yesterday Will Make You Cry  /  Lonely Crusade  /  Conversations with Chester Himes

*   *   *   *   *

The Dark Role of Excess in the Literary Marketplace

The Genesis of the Urban Street Literature Market and its Foundational Tropes of Black Excess

By Keenan Norris

 

 

Introduction

If we look at the market-exploitation of excessiveness and outrageousness as associated with lower-income black ghetto culture in the marketing of Chester Himes' work and carried forward by books like Shannon Holmes' Dirty Game, we recognize the relatively sudden penetration of over-emphasized black physicality and criminality into the mainstream commercial space of literary fiction-writing. These texts, both in the fact of their very existence in major bookstores across the country and in their undeniable popularity, signal a shift in what is acceptable.

 

Exiled to the darker corners of the national imagination, tropes of black excess, ironically, have re-emerged into the mainstream in recent years due to an ever-widening liberalism that tolerates all manner of discourse, excessiveness and outrageous rhetoric. Whatever the causes, urban street lit*, as Holmes' works are termed in commercial literary discourse, has created new mainstream space for the consumption of black excessiveness and outrageousness.

 

As evidence of the most unabashed deployment of the black excessive look to pages the covers of novels like Thong on Fire and Thug-A-Licious, books published by imprints of Simon & Schuster and One World, respectively. While these books represent the nadir of the genre, they do not describe its origins. For that, we must look to Chester Himes' strange work.

A Rage in Harlem: the scene on the book's cover is rendered from a unique vantage point, from behind the rotating blade of an old electric fan, the fan set, it would appear, in an open apartment window. Through the spinning of the blade we can see down onto a busy street of pedestrians and cars moving in various directions. That the building is a tenement without a central heating or air-conditioning system is implied. The poverty of the tenants is at least suggested. The heat and fetid humidity of summer is indicated. The omnipresent claustrophobia of the city is conveyed, thus, quite succinctly to the viewer. While rendered quite skillfully in technical terms, nothing in this window shot of a commonplace cityscape is necessarily excessive. Nothing described so far is necessarily linked to tropes of black excessiveness. Such scenes are staples of New York movies that I have seen, from Raging Bull (a cast of Italian-Americans) to In America (Irish-Americans).

 

What absolutely associates the cover art here with tropes of black excess is twofold. First, the entire picture is cast in a fire red tint. No apartment window I know of glows this red. The reddest afternoon sunset is not nearly this monochromatic, and, anyway, absent an extreme high voltage lava lamp, the red glow would emanate from outside the window (the source of light being the sun), not from the inside of the apartment. Meanwhile, the  half-italicized title (a rage in harlem, its bright yellow lettering reads) both disrupts the conventional stylistic logic of either fully italicizing or leaving completely unitalicized the print and, more importantly, focuses the viewer's attention on the "rage" present in a historically black ghetto. That Harlem has been, variously, populated by Jews, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans throughout its history, as well as blacks, is beside the point. All black people are not enraged either. The cover art speaks not to truth but to long-popular tropes of black rage, black ghettoization and black crime. Rage is an adjective with more than one meaning, obviously; but in this case Himes means for the noun, Harlem (and the hardships, the segregation, the poverty it connotes), to modify the adjective and for the viewer to associate "rage" with the harshness of ghetto life.

 

The bright red color of the picture can connote fire from a riot or blood from a murder, but whatever the specific interpretation, the general sense taken away is one of color-coded trouble. Not only does the red coloration suggest trouble, but the popular association of Harlem with black persons and the popular association of blacks with all manner of illegal excess* also suggests trouble. Again, the cover art vividly plays to tropes of racialized, color-coded excess, particularly the tropes of intractable black poverty, irresolvable anger and ever-impending calamity.

 

Explanatory Digression: Excess and Trope

 

Zygmunt Bauman argues in his essay "Excess: An Obituary," the logic of the market is based not on the observation or delineation of things present, or interrogation of things absent, but on the creation of things not yet existent. Thus the mass media must alter the given culture. Moreover, it must not subtract from that culture or interrogate absences and silences within the culture; it must, instead, augment culture via a tactic of excess that adds on to prevailing notions, convictions, prejudices, etc. within the society. These notions, convictions, and prejudices and so on we, for our purposes here, may call tropes. Tropes are conventions so deeply embedded within the collective society, within the collective psyche that they are generally present yet emerge into vividness by proxy, in altered forms, as political manifestos, mission statements, mass-marketable art and entertainment.

 

These tropes become widely psychically embedded within culture via a specific means. Bauman states, "Norm is the foundation of excess; thanks to the excess invoking the norm as its foundation, the question of the foundation of the norm may be skipped or never asked. Excess needs a norm to make sense..." (Bauman, 85). The excessive can only emerge out of something considered normative. Thus, our American economy, cultural as well as financial, which via its control of capital is situated as a normative base and judge, defines normalcy and creates, and, upon creation, defines cultural and market excess. Economic growth models are thus, by definition, not concerned with decrease or the observation or interrogation of self-defined norms but are instead creative and measure success in terms of blind increase, that is, in terms of excess. The economy and the valuations made by the economy, then, are not based on a genuine sense of norm, but on the fabrication of excess in different venues.

 

"When norms lose their grip," Bauman argues, "order can rely only on excess for its continuing phantom-like existence" (86). "Excess, that sworn enemy of the norm, has itself become the norm... Nothing is excessive once excess is the norm" (88). In the absence of an actual foundation for normative judgments (for instance, in an economy based on the perpetual creation of wealth), excess seems to become normative. The recognition of excess, even where plainly visible, is obliterated. The tropes of black American excess, so deeply embedded in the cultural psyche that hyper-sexuality and rage, for instance, are seen as unremarkable when placed upon black bodies.

 

The tropes by which blacks are popularly defined in our cultural economy are not the product of close observation or interrogation of how black people 'really' are but instead are the product of the creation of excessive traits. Thus, black culture is chiefly understandable within the wider mainstream culture and is commercially lucrative based on the extent to which it can put forth a rhetoric of its own sexual outrageousness, its promiscuity and prowess, its own excessive criminality, its own excessive anger. Thus, writers and publishers of the black experience are well-served financially to create and maintain an industry, or sub-industry, based in these tropes*.

 

Before entering in on a specific analysis of entertainment objects*, though, I want first to delineate what I see as an important complicity of interests, those being the interests of liberal government, the mass media and artists/ intellectuals. The inter-relation of these groups and the interest-driven rhetoric by which they function is important, I think, in understanding why there is so little room for observation or interrogation or disinterested creation of popular culture.

 

Explanatory Digression: Alteration

 

Hannah Arendt identifies a cultural phenomenon: that the conflict between philosophy and rhetoric has turned, in modern times, into a war by proxy with the opposed functionings of intellectuals, only fitfully at home in academe, and the apparatuses of government, the print and television media, increasingly at odds. "To be sure," she writes, "Plato's dream did not come true: the Academe never became a counter-society, and nowhere do we hear of any attempt by the universities at seizing power. But what Plato never dreamed of did come true: The political realm recognized that it needed an institution outside the power struggle... Very unwelcome truths have emerged from the universities...." (256).

 

This uneasy relationship between political power and intellectual society does not mirror but actually inverts the classical relationship between rhetoric and philosophy, because what Arendt suggests is that in the modern world the great public universities (i.e., the philosophers) must work in service of the government (i.e., the rhetoricians). If to say that they work in service of government is too strong a terminology then at least it can be said that they are massively funded by the state and are accordingly dependent on the state.

 

The higher discourse thus serves the lower. I would assert that the classical conflict between philosophy and rhetoric is not so much alive in the relationship between governments and universities as between governments and independent intellectuals, whose work (as differentiated from their product) finds support only in relation to its ability to be processed into product so as to appeal to foundations rendering fellowship and grant money, universities offering jobs, commercial publishers and other forms of media that disseminate product that promises sizeable corporate profit.

 

In the absence of a university system more fundamentally opposed to power, intellectuals and artists find an indirect and troubling power when allied with commercial sponsors that grant them surprisingly free range. The irony is that modern artists, allied to publishers, corporations, etc, and represented in this essay by the commercially successful novelists that I will examine, tend to gain popularity the more excessive, the more outrageous their work is.

 

A question that might be raised in relation this assertion is, Why does the market and society seem to respond positively to the excessive and outrageous?

 

In her essay "The Crisis in Culture" Arendt writes that "those who produce for the mass media ransack the entire range of past and present culture in the hope of finding suitable material. This material, moreover, cannot be offered as it is; it must be altered in order to become entertaining, it must be prepared to be easily consumed" (204). Thus, the market responds positively to that which entertains. Product is tailored to entertain. Arendt adds that material cannot exist as is but must be made different. It is this turn in Arendt's argument that really defines the special danger of mass media's impact on modern culture. That material from the past and especially the present is "alter[ed]" in order to provide entertainment begs the question, in what way is said material altered, how, exactly, is its basic form augmented or reduced?*

 

As regards urban street literature (also commonly called hip-hop fiction), the entire range of past and present culture is altered via the tactic of excess. Applied to this specific class of literature, Arendt's notion of alteration acquires its danger, for it is not simply that the visual rhetoric of a Chester Himes or Shannon Holmes book cover is altered somehow and is different from what our society considers to be reality. "The falseness of a judgment," Nietzsche tells us, in his critique of valuation in Beyond Good and Evil, "is for us not necessarily an objection to a judgment. The question is to what extent it is life-promoting, life-preserving, species-preserving.... (Nietzsche, 4).

 

In my critique of the excessiveness so pervasive in the visual rhetoric used to market urban street literature the weight of judgment falls not on the veracity of the visual representations before us but on their connotations and general effect. Nietzsche, after first invalidating the premises of fundamental valuation, argues that relative valuation is still possible and bases that valuation, with beautiful simplicity, on the practical effect of a thing. The art/entertainment objects (i.e., the book covers) that head the work of urban street writers such as Chester Himes, Shannon Holmes, Sapphire, Terri Woods, Darrin Coleman, et. al. are not particularly life-promoting or preserving. The visual rhetoric at issue markets an easily consumable sub-culture by leveraging a variety of tropes of black excess as its method of "alter[ation]" (204) and consumer solicitation.

 

Art/Entertainment Objects

 

Chester Himes is the initiator of the blaxploitation style. Whereas Himes' early novels, such as If He Hollers Let Him Go and Yesterday Will Make You Cry, set themselves in explicit opposition to white dominance, the Harlem crime novels eschew situations wherein there is possibility for fundamental socio-political change in favor of storylines that revel in ghetto style, hyper-coolness, exaggerated sexuality. As such, Himes' work is the forerunner to the blaxploitation film genre* and to gangster rap music. The entertainment object that heads a Himes novel, its book cover, speaks to this complex relationship to the market, as well as to the theme of black-excess-as-popular-trope.

The cover of Himes' The Heat's On, which is yet another novel in the author's Harlem cycle, re-published as part of the Vintage Crime series, pictures a phantasmagoric portrait of two almost oppositely shaded faces, one shaded darkly in black and purple, the other softly lit, mostly in yellows and reds. Both heads seem to rise from a common source, a mutual torso. Both faces, while differently hued, possess typical Negroid features. Their broad noses and ample cheekbones signal that the illustrator and wants the viewer to understand that this is a book concerned with black people, or at least with black men.

 

One face is elevated, situated above the second face, which is physically lower down and apparently subordinate. The elevated face is upturned, the subordinate face turned down. The upturned face is cast in far lighter color and his look is happier, the downturned face is shaded darkly and the countenance is unmistakably angry.

 

This contrast in the trajectory of each gaze, the dominant and inferior position of each face, is suggestive of a simplistic binary symbolism: the man whose gaze has achieved upward trajectory would, in this formulation, be the man destined to better prospects in life, while his darker, lowlier counterpart would be moving toward a base existence. In this formulation, black maleness is represented as having two possible destinies, one good, one terrible, one light, one dark, etc. While this is an unrewarding interpretation in terms of economic and status mobility, it is an interpretation easily understood and happily consumed by an audience familiar with easily understood cues/tropes, like color-coding*.

 

Another aspect of the cover art is the physical relationship between the two faces. They seem to emerge from the same torso. But they also are represented as having risen from that shared body into an apparent physical separation. Separating the faces is a jaggedly etched skyline of high-rise buildings, lofts, projects towers, factory facades and skyscrapers. This separation of the two faces, the two men evokes curiosity-- why and how, exactly, are these two black men so suddenly separate? Is their separation the cause or the result of hardship, or a necessary and positive evolution?

 

Perhaps the ruthless system of New York itself, the city's claustrophobia, its multiplicity of squalid housing projects, its abandoned industrial sector, its incredible expressions of power and wealth, have separated the men from one another. Perhaps this is an unjust separation, or perhaps it is a socially acceptable, even appropriate one. Maybe the urban phenomena-- high-rise buildings, lofts, projects towers, factory facades, skyscrapers-- have bound the men together. Maybe the men must co-inhabit one another's destinies, so that black poverty and black wealth, black luxury and black squalor become indissoluble in the claustrophobia of a crowded, essentially segregated city. These differing interpretations have at their root the attempt to understand the relationship between the two faces. The conceptual limitation of Himes' Harlem project, bounded by the tropes it accepts, is exposed.

 

Finally, the viewer of the cover art is moved toward melodramatic interpretation by the absence of variety. Interpretive possibility is constrained. There seems no third way for the picture to be understood. As is often the case with the depiction of black subjects in arts and entertainment, the seeming absence of interpretive options, the reliance on familiar tropes, encourages excessive interpretation of those options that are readily understandable and familiar: thus, the faces become sites of excess, of tremendous light and terrible darkness, hope and despair, optimism and rage.

 

There is, however, another interpretation of the cover art that speaks to the residual complexity that Himes carried over from his social protest novels to his Harlem cycle. There is heavy use of black and purple to define the face of the subordinate black man on the cover. The cityscape separating the subordinate man from his upward-inclined counterpart is shaded in a dissipating purple and a fervent shade of blue. Purple, blue, black, these colors convey a sense of cool, of grace and elan. The non-aggressive affect of this color palette makes more subterranean and ambivalent the range of tropes conveyed.

 

Without engaging in too much speculation as to artistic intent, I can assert that the cover art for The Heat's On introduces the theme of coolness that marks Himes' Harlem cycle. In constructing coolness, Himes is suggesting a way to avoid the wrenching internal and external conflicts blacks face in America, conflicts hinted at in the two black male faces in the cover art. According to the tactic of coolness, black people can elide the seemingly inevitable confrontation with white economic dominance by constructing a meta-culture inside American borders but outside the American way of life that is based not on prevailing economic and status valuations but on the assertion of cool. Coolness derives its power from its disregard for conventional sites of cultural importance. It is cool toward and disengaged from these sites or tropes.

 

The visual rhetoric heading Himes' work, its cover art, suggests an essential disregard for the tropes and sites of importance in the dominant culture. Interestingly, the Himes cover art achieves this coolness not by erasing or hiding away the negative tropes (i.e., the dark-light binary, the suggestions of claustrophobic inner-city life and black male disempowerment and despair). These tropes, obviously prevalent in the society at large, are not hidden from sight on the cover of Himes' book. Himes' cover art suggests that a cool, detached disregard for conventional economic and social concerns can co-exist with and remain unaffected by those conventional economic and social concerns.

 

Himes' troubled torch has been taken up, first by the blaxploitation films, now by a new generation of writers and artists. The blaxploitation films made their indebtedness to Himes known by adapting his stories to the silver screen. Cotton Comes to Harlem is the best example of this open borrowing. Since then, though, the Himes style has been re-branded, first as gangster rap, now in the guise of the 'new' urban street literature. Walk into the "African-American" books section of any Barnes & Noble or WaldenBooks and there before you will be title after title representing the resurgent genre.

 

Urban street literature is currently sought-after and valued within the mainstream publishing industry, its chief creators, among them Darrin Coleman, Terri Woods and Shannon Holmes, to name only a few, now receiving impressive advances and multi-book deals at major publishing houses. At the same time that urban street literature is market-valuable in the current literary economy it is also de-valued by the perception among writers, agents and editors that it is not serious literature.

 

The most succinct evidence of this de-valuation may be the difference in the referents by which, for instance, a Woods novel is distinguished in the industry as opposed to, say, a novel by Philip Roth. The Woods novel is referred to by writers, agents and editors not even as "urban street literature" but as "urban street lit." By contrast, the Roth novel is referred to as "literature" if it meets with standard amounts of acclaim and criticism and as "Literature" if it is nominated for national awards*. The novel written by the industry-respected author is a priori understood and referred to as serious literary work, while the novel written by a writer in Woods' genre is not called literature, but a partial and exoticized version of the same, urban street lit.

 

The primary term, literature is abbreviated to represent the genre's inferiority and the addition of adjectives "urban" and "street" add an additional exoticism to the referent. Here, too, we can see the trope of black, urban excess present: for where this genre in question is not completely "literature," it is also more than "literature." It is excessive in its ancillary, unnecessary, extravagant traits, more "urban" and more "street" than the industry-respected novel.

 

Look at Shannon Holmes' Dirty Game, published in May of this year (2007), as an example of the former trope: on the cover, below the graffiti style etching of the author's name and the title of his book is a background of a brightly lit city skyline. The office buildings and skyscrapers stand out against a gloriously dark night. This could be Chicago, or Los Angeles, or any other major city in the United States. Superimposed before the city are the disproportionately large appendages of a black woman, her bejeweled hands run along the length of her incredibly long legs.

 

A black dress barely enters the picture, but the dominant image here is those legs, incredibly, inordinately long, appealingly sleek and nakedly inviting. The physicality of the black female body is here not simply emphasized, which, perhaps, might be the effect of any picture foregrounding a scantily clad black woman, but is over-emphasized to the nth degree. The woman lies before the city as impressively as Godzilla bestrode Tokyo.

 

But here the suggestion is not that this human figure, at least as large as the city itself, might conquer or destroy the city; no, though her face and upper torso are left out of the picture, it is evident by her position that she is flat on her back, one leg kicked carelessly into the air. Her dress falls away, out of the picture. She is virtually all legs. The suggestion is that of sexual invitation and sexual availability. Not only that: the suggestion extends further, for it is not only that the pose accentuates her sexuality, it is that the frame excludes the rest of her body and, therefore, associates her solely with her physicality. Far from conquering the city, the black woman is here magnified in order to over-emphasize her sexually subordination, flat on her back.

 

The shining, glam jewelry on the woman's arm speaks to the financial excesses of street culture. Conventionally, the purchase of unnecessary, extravagant items is seen as the right of the rich and evidence of waste and stupidity among the middle-class and poor.  The bracelets act as a trope, but they are a trope of excess bound in negative connotations only in the context that they are here figured: the fact that the woman's skin is mahogany in color, that Negro-ness is popularly associated with poverty, as well as with acting outrageously and spending ridiculously beyond means* (in a country where the average savings rate across races is negative), makes the jewelry a trope of excess.

 

Popular, easily consumable tropes of black excess that street literature accepts and markets itself via are unproductive to accept and problematic as a method of commercial branding. In particular, the tropes of black female sexual subordination and black urban chaos run counter to all attempts at reversing negative trends and exposing bogus stereotypes. Holmes work, now published by St. Martin's Press, a large mainstream publisher, is extremely market-successful; however, his work is no longer among the most outrageous examples of the genre.

 

Major publishing houses have cynically shifted the vast majority of their African-American publications to a brand that caters to horrendous, false, pre-conceived notions of what it is to be black in modern urban America. The apparent fact of this misrepresentation aside, the growth industry that is urban street lit has simply exiled other black literature that does not fit this narrow paradigm to the realm of lower-budget, ever-unstable independent publishers.

 

Bibliography

Arendt, Hannah. Between Past and Future. New York, NY: Viking Press, 1961. p. 204. p. 229. p. 234. p. 256.

Bauman, Zygmunt. "Excess: An Obituary." parallax, vol. 7, no. 1. pp. 85-91. p. 85. p.86. p. 88. http://www/landf.co.uk/journals.

Bizzell, Patricia and Herzberg, Bruce, eds. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings From Classical Times to the Present. 2nd ed. Boston, Mass.: Bedford/ St. Martin's Press. 2000. p. 82. pp. 88-138. p. 125.

Giroux, Henry A. The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy. pp. xiii-xxviii.

Himes, Chester. A Rage in Harlem. New York, NY: Vintage Books U.S.A., 1989.

Himes, Chester. My Life of Absurdity. The Autobiography of Chester Himes. New York, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1976. pp. 238-290.

Himes, Chester. Retour En Afrique/ Cotton Comes to Harlem. Paris, France/Chatham, NJ: Librarie Plon/ The Chatham Bookseller, 1964/ 1965 (U.S.).

Himes, Chester. The Heat's On. New York, NY: Vintage Books U.S.A., 1988.

Himes, Chester. The Quality of Hurt, Vol. 1. New York, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1972. p. 56.

Holmes, Shannon. Dirty Game. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press Griffin. 2007. (Cover design by Michael Storrings. Cover photograph of woman by Haitem Oueslati. Cover photograph of cityscape by Getty Images).

Levinson, Ronald B, Ed. A Plato Reader. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1967. p. xii. pp. 174-175. pp. 274-279.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 1966. p. 4.

Noire. Thong on Fire. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2007. (Cover photograph by Thinstock/ Jupiterimages).

Noire. Thug-A-Licious. New York, NY: One World/ Ballantine, 2006.

Norris, Keenan. "Chester Himes Response Paper." 2005.

Phillips, Gary and Tervalon, Jervey, eds. The Cocaine Chronicles. New York, NY: Akashic Books, 2005. (Cover design and photograph by Keith Campbell).

Yang, Gene-Luen. American Born Chinese. NY & London: First Second Publishers, 2006. p. 7. p. 114. (Jacket art by Gene Luen-Yang. Jacket design by Danica Novgorodoff).

Call for Papers on Street Lit

The Takeover

Street Lit Subjects, Controversy, Commercial Phenomenon & Art

By Keenan Norris, Editor

*   *   *   *   *

AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . .

Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

*   *   *   *   *

Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President

By Ron Suskind

A new book offering an insider's account of the White House's response to the financial crisis says that U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored an order from President Barack Obama calling for reconstruction of major banks. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, the incident is just one of several in which Obama struggled with a divided group of advisers, some of whom he didn't initially consider for their high-profile roles. Suskind interviewed more than 200 people, including Obama, Geithner and other top officials . . . The book states Geithner and the Treasury Department ignored a March 2009 order to consider dissolving banking giant Citigroup while continuing stress tests on banks, which were burdened with toxic mortgage assets. . . .Suskind states that Obama accepts the blame for mismanagement in his administration while noting that restructuring the financial system was complicated and could have resulted in deeper financial harm. . . .

In a February 2011 interview with Suskind, Obama acknowledges another ongoing criticism—that he is too focused on policy and not on telling a larger story, one the public could relate to. Obama is quoted as saying he was elected in part because "he had connected our current predicaments with the broader arc of American history," but that such a "narrative thread" had been lost.—Gopusa

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues


1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        

Enjoy!

*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

 

 

 

 

 

 

posted 12 March 2008   

 

 

 

Home  Literature & Arts    Special Topics

Related files:   Freedom Vision (Chester Himes)   The Dark Role of Excess in Literary Marketplace  Coal, Charcoal, and Chocolate Comedy    fresno gone   (A short story)    

27 Days   Of Obama and Oakland  Negro Martyrs Are Needed  The Need for Martyrs   Call for Papers on Street Lit