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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ramcat Reads #7


Bell, Bernard W., ed. Clarence Major and His Art: Portraits of an African American Postmodernist. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. This examination of an underappreciated writer and visual artist should be read along with Keith Byerman's The Art and Life of Clarence Major . Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012.

Chang, Jeff.  Who We Be: The Colorization of America .New York: St. Martin's Press, 2014.  Chang's lively blending of nonfiction narratives and multicultural visuals, a brief history of writing performance, lends some credibility to the belief that "the tragedy of life is that you never know all the things you're supposed to know when you're supposed to know them"( 345).

Franklin, John Hope.  George Washington Williams: A Biography.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.  Franklin's book is a fine example of cultural memory at work.  Williams (1849-1891) was the author of  A History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880; Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens (1882) and A History of Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion (1887).  In a remarkable gesture of putting Williams in conversation with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Mark Twain's King Leopold's Soliloquy, Franklin appended Williams's open letter to King Leopold II of Belgium (1890), a most "eloquent indictment," and  "A Report on the Proposed Congo Railway" (1890).  Williams set the bar for later generations of scholar activists.  When Williams died on August 2, 1891, "he had achieved the full stature of a real nineteenth century American" (240), and Franklin concludes he "was one of the small heroes of this world; but it is well that one should not try to make more of him then what he was ---a flawed but brilliant human being" (241).  In this book we find a perfect matching of subject and object, for Franklin himself was  a consummate American historian and a brilliant, responsible human being.

Izzo, David Garrett, ed. Movies in the Age of Obama: The Era of Post-Racial and Neo-Racist Cinema. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015.  These essays address how Obama's presidency "spurred a cultural shift, notably in music, television, and film" and their arguments should be compared with those made by essays in Black Hollywood Unchained: Commentary on the State of Black Hollywood. Chicago: Third World Press, 2015.  Both collections are contemporary supplements for  essays collected in Black American Cinema (New York: Routledge, 1993), edited by Manthia Diawara.  These three collections tempt us to think we might be much enlightened by  a collection of essays on how African and Asian films challenge the adequacy of films produced in Australia, Europe and the Americas.

Smith, Patricia.  Blood Dazzler: Poems.  Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2008.  Smith's accomplished explorations of aesthetic gestures occasioned by Hurricane Katrina should be read in the company of Hurricane Blues: Poems about Katrina and Rita (Cape Girardeau, MO: Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2006), edited by Philip C. Kolin and Susan Swartwout and Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009), edited by Camille T. Dungy.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.            December 23, 2015

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