Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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p. vii

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

When I was in the second grade, my teacher announced that our class was going to hold a science fair. She explained that the best way to come up with a topic for our projects was to ask a question that we could not answer. I remember how easy it was to think of questions: Why does the...

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Acknowledgments

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p. xi

My thanks begin where this project began, with Grant Farred’s invitation to me to submit “something on Morrison” for the SAQ edition on “Thinking Black Intellectuals.” I am grateful both for Grant’s confidence and for his helpful feedback on what would become the seed of this book....

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Introduction

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pp. 1-30

When then Senator Barack Obama announced to a crowd of thousands in February 2008, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” few knew that the line referred to a poem by African American poet June Jordan.1 Instead commentators either thrilled with the power of his commanding oratory...

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1. Violence and Toni Morrison’s Racist House

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pp. 31-67

In the fall of 2008 with the presidential election only months away, Toni Morrison published her ninth novel, A Mercy. At the very moment when the country was anxiously, incredulously looking toward the future, Morrison directed her readers backward. Moving well past the history of antebellum...

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2. Hiding the Invisible Hurt of Race

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pp. 68-99

Metaphors of race in African American literature have generally been characterized through visual terms—the invisibility of Ralph Ellison’s protagonist, the veil that prevents the young W.E.B. Du Bois from joining his white classmates, the yearning of Pecola Breedlove for blue eyes and the...

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3. The Unspeakable Language of Race and Fantasy in the Stories of Jhumpa Lahiri

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pp. 100-133

Part I of Obama’s Dreams from My Father is largely dedicated to chronicling the difficulties of growing up black in Hawaii. With his mother in Indonesia conducting fieldwork for her dissertation, the adolescent Obama lived with his maternal grandparents. Though his grandfather introduced him...

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4. Performing Intimacy: “Race-Specific, Race-Free Language” in Political Discourse

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pp. 134-163

President Obama has proved to be our country’s most adroit user of “race-specific, race-free language.” However, because the race of participants upon the national stage is already known, such coded rhetoric operates apart from the experimental ambiguity of...

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Conclusion. The Demands of Precious

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pp. 164-177

Lee Daniels’s 2009 film, Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, begins with the appearance of the words “LE DANS TINMIN” written in a red scrawl at the bottom right of a black screen. A moment later “(Lee Daniels Entertainment)” emerges in a standard font below the original phrase...

Notes

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pp. 179-189

Bibliography

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pp. 191-198

Index

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pp. 199-202

About the Author

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p. 203