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Contemporary African American Literature

The Living Canon

Edited by Lovalerie King and Shirley Moody-Turner

Publication Year: 2013

In this volume, Lovalerie King and Shirley Moody-Turner have compiled a collection of essays that offer access to some of the most innovative contemporary black fiction while addressing important issues in current African American literary studies. Distinguished scholars Houston Baker, Trudier Harris, Darryl Dickson-Carr, and Maryemma Graham join writers and younger scholars to explore the work of Toni Morrison, Edward P. Jones, Trey Ellis, Paul Beatty, Mat Johnson, Kyle Baker, Danzy Senna, Nikki Turner, and many others. The collection is bracketed by a foreword by novelist and graphic artist Mat Johnson, one of the most exciting and innovative contemporary African American writers, and an afterword by Alice Randall, author of the controversial parody The Wind Done Gone. Together, King and Moody-Turner make the case that diversity, innovation, and canon expansion are essential to maintaining the vitality of African American literary studies.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Blacks in the Diaspora


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Dedication Page

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pp. 6-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

There is a fanpage on the popular networking site Facebook entitled “I Hate Reading.” It’s a very succinct title, and there’s not much else to the page. If you hate reading, you simply click the button that says “Like,” and you can become a “Fan” and proudly show your unabashed support...

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pp. xiii-xiv

We are deeply indebted to Mat, Houston, Darryl, Maryemma, Eve, K ristina, Evie, Carmen, Alice, James, L.H., Alex, Richard, Martha, Trudier, Howard, Dana, Greg, Pia, and David for trusting us with their work and for staying with us through multiple revisions. We could not have asked for a more...

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pp. 1-13

While Contemporary African American Literature was already conceived and well underway when Kenneth Warren’s provocatively titled What Was African American Literature? appeared in early 2011, many of the questions Warren raises are covered in this volume. In his slender but...

Part 1. Politics of Publishing, Pedagogy, and Readership

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pp. 15-33

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1. The Point of Entanglement: Modernism, Diaspora, and Toni Morrison’s Love

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pp. 17-40

A glance at selected journalistic assessments of Toni Morrison’s novel Love reveals the intellectual shallowness and implicit critical contempt that are hallmarks of journalistic reviews of Black expressivity.1 Here is the judgment on Morrison provided for the New York Times by Michiko...

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2. “The Historical Burden that Only Oprah can Bear”: African American Satirists and the State of the Literature

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pp. 41-54

Deep within Paul Beatty’s most recent novel, Slumberland (2008), the reader will find tucked neatly but auspiciously in a footnote the narrator’s droll comment that around the time of the Berlin Wall’s fall, Oprah Winfrey was “in the process of buying the rights to the life story of every...

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3. Black is Gold: African American Literature, Critical Literacy, and Twenty-First-Century Pedagogies

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pp. 55-90

The two operative phrases from the Morrison epigraph that serve as a point of departure for the discussion that follows are “critical geography” and “space for discovery.” Morrison, by her own example, demonstrates the capacity of language to move beyond the limitations of geography...

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4. Hip Hop (Feat. Women Writers): Reimagining Black Women and Agency through Hip Hop Fiction

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pp. 91-112

“It’s bigger than religion / Hip Hop / It’s bigger than my niggas / Hip Hop,” chants Erykah Badu on “The Healer” off her 2008 release, New Amerykah, Part One: 4th World War. While Badu is typically considered a neo-soul artist, she is deeply enmeshed in the Hip Hop music world, occupying...

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5. Street Literature and the Mode of Spectacular Writing: Popular Fiction between Sensationalism, Education, Politics, and Entertainment

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pp. 113-134

During the past decade a new form of black popular fiction emerged in the nation’s inner-urban areas—spaces that the publishing industry and book distribution networks never imagined would be commercially viable. Known as Street Literature or Urban Fiction, the novels are often written...

Part 2. Alternative Genealogies

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pp. 135-153

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6. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Slave: Visual Artistry as Agency in the Contemporary Narrative of Slavery

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pp. 137-154

Among the illustrations appended to Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself, in the volume edited by Jean Fagan Yellin, is a copy of the advertisement placed in the papers by Jacobs’s owner when she escaped from his control. It describes the twenty-one-year-old...

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7. Variations on the Theme: Black Family, Nationhood, Lesbianism, and Sadomasochistic Desire in Marci Blackman’s Po Man’s Child

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pp. 155-167

In the novel Po Man’s Child, Marci Blackman’s character Po deliberately and secretly cuts herself. In such moments of extreme pain and escapism, through fantasy and role playing, Po asserts an authority that violates heterosexist expectations of the broader black community. Yet even...

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8. Bad Brother Man: Black Folk Figure Narratives in Comics

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pp. 168-185

Recent scholarship in Africana Studies has revisited the “badman” folk figure in African American culture. Much of this scholarship (Perry 2004, Cobb 2006, and Ogbar 2007) has reengaged this classic black folk figure in order to explicate similar characters emerging in the lyrics and music...

Part 3. Beyond Authenticity

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pp. 187-205

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9. Sampling the Sonics of Sex (Funk) in Paul Beatty’s Slumberland

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pp. 189-212

Blackness. Even as historians and critics have attempted to articulate the historical beginning of blackness, as well as the modernity of it, who can say when or where this phenomenon of blackness, a force akin to the start of a world religion rather than the beginning of a racial identity...

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10. Post-Integration Blues: Black Geeks and Afro-Diasporic Humanism

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pp. 213-234

On the one hand, this essay grows out of a general interest in taking stock of some significant shifts in African American identity and cultural production subsequent to the Civil Rights Movement, and, on the other hand, it is a result of teaching a course about the recent history of the African...

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11. The Crisis of Authenticity in Contemporary African American Literature

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pp. 235-254

The conversation about the purpose and nature of African American literature began when African Americans started publishing stories, poetry, and prose during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For much of the twentieth century, this discussion continued on in...

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12. Someday We’ll All be Free: Considering Post-Oppression Fiction

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pp. 255-266

I was asked to contribute to this anthology in late 2009, after attending “Celebrating African American Literature: The Novel since 1988,” part of a conference series held biennially at Penn State University. The diverse voices and perspectives of the academics and fiction writers at the conference...

Part 4. Pedagogical Approaches and Implications

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pp. 267-285

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13. Untangling History, Dismantling Fear: Teaching Tayari Jones’s Leaving Atlanta

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pp. 269-284

Slavery. Reconstruction. Lynching. Black codes. The Ku Klux Klan. Segregation. Jim Crow laws. The Great Migration. School desegregation. The murders of Emmett Till, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and a host of others. The Greensboro sit-ins. The Atlanta Child Murders....

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14. Reading Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner with a Group of Collegiate Black Men

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pp. 285-301

When I set up a blog to discuss African American comic strips, I never thought we would end up concentrating on the revolutionary freedom fighter, Nat Turner. Nevertheless, our extended conversation involving a group of collegiate black men interested in multiple views of African...

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15. Toward the Theoretical Practice of Conceptual Liberation: Using an Africana Studies Approach to Reading African American Literary Texts

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pp. 302-327

Africana Studies is an academic extension of what Cedric Robinson has called “The Black Radical Tradition.” This tradition is notable for emerging out of a pre-existing constellation of African intellectual work, shaped by millennia of subsequent migration, adaptation, and improvisation....

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pp. 328-331

On behalf of the novelists, I applaud the scholars. And I thank the scholars for including fiction writers in the important conversation about the evolving shape of the African American novel that took place at the Nittany Lion Inn October 23rd and 24th of 2009. That conversation is powerfully...

Annotated Bibliography

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pp. 333-349


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pp. 351-358


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pp. 359-375

E-ISBN-13: 9780253006974
E-ISBN-10: 025300697X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253006257

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 3 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Blacks in the Diaspora