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The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke
From antebellum times, Louisiana’s unique multipartite society included a legal and social space for intermediary racial groups such as Acadians, Creoles, and Creoles of Color. In Becoming Cajun, Becoming American, Maria Hebert-Leiter explores how American writers have portrayed Acadian culture over the past 150 years. Combining a study of Acadian literary history with an examination of Acadian ethnic history in light of recent social theories, she offers insight into the Americanization process experienced by Acadians—who over time came to be known as Cajuns—during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Hebert-Leiter examines the entire history of the Acadian, or Cajun, in American literature, beginning with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Evangeline and the writings of George Washington Cable, including his novel Bonaventure. The cultural complexity of Acadian and Creole identities led many writers to rely on stereotypes in Acadian characters, but as Hebert-Leiter shows, the ambiguity of Louisiana’s class and racial divisions also allowed writers to address complex and controversial—and sometimes taboo—subjects. She emphasizes the fiction of Kate Chopin, whose short stories contain Acadian characters accepted as white Americans during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Representations of the Acadian in literature reflect the Acadians’ path towards assimilation, as they celebrated their differences while still adopting an all-American notion of self. In twentieth-century writing, Acadian figures came to be more often called Cajun, and increasingly outsiders perceived them not simply as exotic or mythic beings but as complex persons who fit into traditional American society while reflecting its cultural diversity. Hebert-Leiter explores this transition in Ernest Gaines’s novel A Gathering of Old Men and James Lee Burke’s detective novels featuring Dave Robicheaux. She also discusses the works of Ada Jack Carver, Elma Godchaux, Shirley Ann Grau, and other writers. From Longfellow through Tim Gautreaux, Acadian and Cajun literature captures the stages of this fascinating cultural dynamism, making it a pivotal part of any history of American ethnicity and of Cajun culture in particular. Concise and accessible, Becoming Cajun, Becoming American provides an excellent introduction to American Acadian and Cajun literature.
A Virginia Community at War, 1861–1867
During the Civil War, the strategically located town of Winchester, Virginia, suffered from the constant turmoil of military campaigning perhaps more than any other town. Occupied dozens of times by alternating Union and Confederate forces, Winchester suffered through three major battles, including some seventy smaller skirmishes. In his voluminous community study of the town over the course of four tumultuous years, Richard R. Duncan shows that in many ways Winchester's history provides a paradigm of the changing nature of the war. Indeed, Duncan reveals how the town offers a microcosm of the war: slavery collapsed, women assumed control in the absence of men, and civilians vied for authority alongside an assortment of revolving military commanders. Control over Winchester was vital for both the North and the South. Confederates used it as a base to strike the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and conduct raids into western Maryland and Pennsylvania, and when Federal forces occupied the town, they threatened Staunton—Lee's breadbasket—and the Virginia Central Railroad. At various times during the war, generals "Stonewall" Jackson, Nathaniel Banks, Robert Milroy, Richard Ewell, Jubal Early, and Philip Sheridan each controlled the town. Guerrilla activity further compounded the region's strife as insecurity became the norm for its civilian population. In this first scholarly treatment of occupied Winchester, Duncan has compiled a narrative of voices from the entire community, including those of groups often omitted from such studies, such as slaves, women, and Confederate dissenters. He shows how Federal occupation meant an early end to slavery in Winchester and how the paucity of men left women to serve as the major cohesive force in the community, making them a bulwark of Confederate support. He also explores the tensions between civilians and military personnel that inevitably arose as each group sought to protect its interests. The war, Duncan explains, left Winchester a landscape of wreckage and economic loss. A fascinating case study of civilian survival amid the turmoil of war, Beleaguered Winchester will appeal to Civil War scholars and enthusiasts alike.
"This is a very valuable reference work, the non-existence of which has long been deplored by Civil War historians. The research, which is impressive, has turned up a considerable amount of detail not generally known, even among Civil War specialists." -- Bell I. Wiley This vital addition to Civil War scholarship is an attempt to rescue members of the Confederate Congress from "postbellum obscurity." Modeled after Ezra J. Warner's two earlier books, Generals in Gray and Generals in Blue, the register contains an introduction describing the makeup of the Confederate Congress, biographical sketches of the congressmen, and a substantial bibliography. The biographical sketches include the place and date of birth, family background, education, means of libelihood, politics, public-service record, and degree of financial and political success of each congressman. The authors describe each congressman's participation in (or opposition to) secession and detail the circumstances of his election to the Confederate Congress. A prominent section of each sketch is devoted to the congressman's activities in the Congress: his position on major issues; his chief interest and the measures he sponsored; and the reason he left Congress. Then, the authors attempt to pick up the lives of the congressmen after the Civil War. The sketches include the place and date of death of each man, as well as the place of burial. Anyone interested in Civil War history will find Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress an indipensable aid.
Praise for David Kirby
"Kirby is exuberant, irrepressible, maniacal and remarkably entertaining.... Okay, let me just say it: he is a wonderful poet." -- Steve Kowit, San Diego Union-Tribune
"Kirby's voice and matter (teaching, literature, traveling, rock 'n' roll, everyday bozohood) are utterly personal and, despite all the laughter, ultimately moving." -- Ray Olson, Booklist
"[Kirby] is a poet who peels away the layers of our skin to show us who we are: our weaknesses, our strengths, and our hilarious obsessions." -- Micah Zevin, New Pages
"The world that Kirby takes into his imagination and the one that arises from it merge to become a creation like no other, something like the world we inhabit but funnier and more full of wonder and terror." -- Philip Levine, Ploughshares
"These poems may be too cool for words." -- Carol Muske-Dukes, New York Times Book Review
Inspired by the carpenter's biscuit joint -- a seamless, undetectable fit between pieces of wood -- David Kirby's latest collection dramatizes the artistic mind as a hidden connection that links the mundane with the remarkable. Even in our most ordinary actions, Kirby shows, there lies a wealth of creative inspiration: "the poem that is written every day if we're there / to read it."
Well known for his garrulous and comic musings, Kirby follows a wandering yet calculated path. In "What's the Plan, Artists?" a girl's yawning in a picture gallery leads him to meditations on subjects as diverse as musical composition, the less-than-beautiful human figure, and "the simple pleasures / of living." The Biscuit Joint traverses seemingly random thoughts so methodically that the journey from beginning to end always proves satisfying and surprising.
In his moving debut collection, Matt Rasmussen faces the tragedy of his brother's suicide, refusing to focus on the expected pathos, blurring the edge between grief and humor. In "Outgoing," the speaker erases his brother's answering machine message to save his family from "the shame of dead you / answering calls." In other poems, once-ordinary objects become dreamlike. A buried light bulb blooms downward, "a flower / of smoldering filaments." A refrigerator holds an evening landscape, "a tinfoil lake," "vegetables / dying in the crisper." Destructive and redemptive, Black Aperture opens to the complicated entanglements of mourning: damage and healing, sorrow and laughter, and torment balanced with moments of relief.
Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina
In Black Rage in New Orleans, Leonard N. Moore traces the shocking history of police corruption in the Crescent City from World War II to Hurricane Katrina and the concurrent rise of a large and energized black opposition to it. In New Orleans, crime, drug abuse, and murder were commonplace, and an underpaid, inadequately staffed, and poorly trained police force frequently resorted to brutality against African Americans. Endemic corruption among police officers increased as the city’s crime rate soared, generating anger and frustration among New Orleans’s black community. Rather than remain passive, African Americans in the city formed antibrutality organizations, staged marches, held sit-ins, waged boycotts, vocalized their concerns at city council meetings, and demanded equitable treatment. Moore explores a staggering array of NOPD abuses—police homicides, sexual violence against women, racial profiling, and complicity in drug deals, prostitution rings, burglaries, protection schemes, and gun smuggling—and the increasingly vociferous calls for reform by the city’s black community. Documenting the police harassment of civil rights workers in the 1950s and 1960s, Moore then examines the aggressive policing techniques of the 1970s, and the attempts of Ernest “Dutch” Morial—the first black mayor of New Orleans—to reform the force in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Even when the department hired more African American officers as part of that reform effort, Moore reveals, the corruption and brutality continued unabated in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Dramatic changes in departmental leadership, together with aid from federal grants, finally helped professionalize the force and achieved long-sought improvements within the New Orleans Police Department. Community policing practices, increased training, better pay, and a raft of other reform measures for a time seemed to signal real change in the department. The book’s epilogue, “Policing Katrina,” however, looks at how the NOPD’s ineffectiveness compromised its ability to handle the greatest natural disaster in American history, suggesting that the fruits of reform may have been more temporary than lasting. The first book-length study of police brutality and African American protest in a major American city, Black Rage in New Orleans will prove essential for anyone interested in race relations in America’s urban centers.
Nineteenth-Century Mississippi River Gambling Stories
In 1836 Benjamin Drake, a midwestern writer of popular sketches for newspapers of the day, introduced his readers to a new and distinctly American rascal who rode the steamboats up and down the Mississippi and other western waterways—the riverboat gambler. These men, he recorded, “dress with taste and elegance; carry gold chronometers in their pockets; and swear with the most genteel precision. . . . Every where throughout the valley, these mistletoe gentry are called by the original, if not altogether classic, cognomen of ‘Black-legs.’” In Blacklegs, Card Sharps, and Confidence Men, Thomas Ruys Smith collects nineteenth-century stories, sketches, and book excerpts by a gallery of authors to create a comprehensive collection of writings about the riverboat gambler. Long an iconic figure in American myth and popular culture but, strangely, one that has never until now received a book-length treatment, the Mississippi River gambler was a favorite character throughout the nineteenth century—one often rich with moral ambiguities that remain unresolved to this day. In the absorbing fictional and nonfictional accounts of high stakes and sudden reversals of fortune found in the pages of Smith’s book, the voices of canonized writers such as William Dean Howells, Herman Melville, and, of course, Mark Twain hold prominent positions. But they mingle seamlessly with lesser-known pieces such as an excerpt from Edward Willett’s sensationalistic dime novel Flush Fred’s Full Hand, raucous sketches by anonymous Old Southwestern humorists from the Spirit of the Times, and colorful accounts by now nearly forgotten authors such as Daniel R. Hundley and George W. Featherstonhaugh. Smith puts the twenty-eight selections in perspective with an Introduction that thoroughly explores the history and myth surrounding this endlessly fascinating American cultural icon. While the riverboat gambler may no longer ply his trade along the Mississippi, Blacklegs, Card Sharps, and Confidence Men makes clear the ways in which he still operates quite successfully in the American imagination.
The Constitutional Conventions of Radical Reconstruction
After the Civil War, Congress required ten former Confederate states to rewrite their constitutions before they could be readmitted to the Union. An electorate composed of newly enfranchised former slaves, native southern whites (minus significant numbers of disenfranchised former Confederate officials), and a small contingent of "carpetbaggers," or outside whites, sent delegates to ten constitutional conventions. Derogatorily labeled "black and tan" by their detractors, these assemblies wrote constitutions and submitted them to Congress and to the voters in their respective states for approval. Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags offers a quantitative study of these decisive but little-understood assemblies—the first elected bodies in the United States to include a significant number of blacks.
Richard L. Hume and Jerry B. Gough scoured manuscript census returns to determine the age, occupation, property holdings, literacy, and slaveholdings of 839 of the conventions' 1,018 delegates. Carefully analyzing convention voting records on certain issues—including race, suffrage, and government structure—they correlate delegates' voting patterns with their racial and socioeconomic status. The authors then assign a "Republican support score" to each delegate who voted often enough to count, establishing the degree to which each delegate adhered to the Republican leaders' program at his convention. Using these scores, they divide the delegates into three groups—radicals, swing voters, and conservatives—and incorporate their quantitative findings into the narrative histories of each convention, providing, for the first time, a detailed analysis of these long-overlooked assemblies.
Hume and Gough's comprehensive study offers an objective look at the accomplishments and shortcomings of the conventions and humanizes the delegates who have until now been understood largely as stereotypes. Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags provides an essential reference guide for anyone seeking a better understanding of the Reconstruction era.
Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
In Bleeding Borders, Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel offers a fresh, multifaceted interpretation of the quintessential sectional conflict in pre–Civil War Kansas. Instead of focusing on the white, male politicians and settlers who vied for control of the Kansas territorial legislature, Oertel explores the crucial roles Native Americans, African Americans, and white women played in the literal and rhetorical battle between proslavery and antislavery settlers in the region. She brings attention to the local debates and the diverse peoples who participated in them during that contentious period. Oertel begins by detailing the settlement of eastern Kansas by emigrant Indian tribes and explores their interaction with the growing number of white settlers in the region. She analyzes the attempts by southerners to plant slavery in Kansas and the ultimately successful resistance of slaves and abolitionists. Oertel then considers how crude frontier living conditions, Indian conflict, political upheaval, and sectional violence reshaped traditional Victorian gender roles in Kansas and explores women’s participation in the political and physical conflicts between proslavery and antislavery settlers. Oertel goes on to examine northern and southern definitions of “true manhood” and how competing ideas of masculinity infused political and sectional tensions. She concludes with an analysis of miscegenation—not only how racial mixing between Indians, slaves, and whites influenced events in territorial Kansas, but more importantly, how the fear of miscegenation fueled both proslavery and antislavery arguments about the need for civil war. As Oertel demonstrates, the players in Bleeding Kansas used weapons other than their Sharpes rifles and Bowie knives to wage war over the extension of slavery: they attacked each other’s cultural values and struggled to assert their own political wills. They jealously guarded ideals of manhood, womanhood, and whiteness even as the presence of Indians and blacks and the debate over slavery raised serious questions about the efficacy of these principles. Oertel argues that, ultimately, many Native Americans, blacks, and women shaped the political and cultural terrain in ways that ensured the destruction of slavery, but they, along with their white male counterparts, failed to defeat the resilient power of white supremacy. Moving beyond a conventional political history of Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Borders breaks new ground by revealing how the struggles of this highly diverse region contributed to the national move toward disunion and how the ideologies that governed race and gender relations were challenged as North, South, and West converged on the border between slavery and freedom.
Toward a Black Male Feminist Criticism
Can black males offer useful insights on black women and patriarchy? Many black feminists are doubtful. Their skepticism derives in part from a history of explosive encounters with black men who blamed feminism for stigmatizing black men and undermining racial solidarity and in part from a perception that black male feminists are opportunists capitalizing on the current popularity of black women's writing and criticism. In Breaking the Silence, David Ikard goes boldly to the crux of this debate through a series of provocative readings of key African American texts that demonstrate the possibility and value of a viable black male feminist perspective. Seeking to advance the primary objectives of black feminism, Ikard provides literary models from Chester Himes's If He Hollers Let Him Go, James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, Toni Morrison's Paradise, Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, and Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walkin' the Dog that consciously wrestle with the concept of victim status for black men and women. He looks at how complicity across gender lines, far from rooting out patriarchy in the black community, has allowed it to thrive. This complicity, Ikard explains, is a process by which victimized groups invest in victim status to the point that they unintentionally concede power to their victimizers and engage in patterns of behavior that are perceived as revolutionary but actually reinforce the status quo. While black feminism has fostered important and necessary discussions regarding the problems of patriarchy within the black community, little attention has been paid to the intersecting dynamics of complicity. By laying bare the nexus between victim status and complicity in oppression, Breaking the Silence charts a new direction for conceptualizing black women's complex humanity and provides the foundations for more expansive feminist approaches to resolving intraracial gender conflicts.