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The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style
ZOOT SUIT (n.): the ultimate in clothes. The only totally and truly American civilian suit.
—Cab Calloway, The Hepster's Dictionary, 1944
Before the fashion statements of hippies, punks, or hip-hop, there was the zoot suit, a striking urban look of the World War II era that captivated the imagination. Created by poor African American men and obscure tailors, the "drape shape" was embraced by Mexican American pachucos, working-class youth, entertainers, and swing dancers, yet condemned by the U.S. government as wasteful and unpatriotic in a time of war. The fashion became notorious when it appeared to trigger violence and disorder in Los Angeles in 1943—events forever known as the "zoot suit riot." In its wake, social scientists, psychiatrists, journalists, and politicians all tried to explain the riddle of the zoot suit, transforming it into a multifaceted symbol: to some, a sign of social deviance and psychological disturbance, to others, a gesture of resistance against racial prejudice and discrimination. As controversy swirled at home, young men in other places—French zazous, South African tsotsi, Trinidadian saga boys, and Russian stiliagi—made the American zoot suit their own.
In Zoot Suit, historian Kathy Peiss explores this extreme fashion and its mysterious career during World War II and after, as it spread from Harlem across the United States and around the world. She traces the unfolding history of this style and its importance to the youth who adopted it as their uniform, and at the same time considers the way public figures, experts, political activists, and historians have interpreted it. This outré style was a turning point in the way we understand the meaning of clothing as an expression of social conditions and power relations. Zoot Suit offers a new perspective on youth culture and the politics of style, tracing the seam between fashion and social action.
Though she died penniless and forgotten, Zora Neale Hurston is now recognized as a major figure in African American literature. Best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, she also published numerous short stories and essays, three other novels, a memoir, and two books on black folklore. Even avid readers of Hurston's prose, however, may be surprised to know that she was also a serious and ambitious playwright throughout her career. Although several of her plays were produced during her lifetime-and some to public acclaim-they have languished in obscurity for years. Even now, most critics and historians gloss over these texts, treating them as supplementary material for understanding her novels. Yet, Hurston's dramatic works stand on their own merits and independently of her fiction.Now, eleven of these forgotten dramatic writings are being published together for the first time in this carefully edited and annotated volume. Filled with lively characters, vibrant images of rural and city life, biblical and folk tales, voodoo, and, most importantly, the blues, readers will discover a "real Negro theater" that embraces all the richness of black life.
A historian hoping to reconstruct the social world of all-black towns or the segregated black sections of other towns in the South finds only scant traces of their existence. In Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, Tiffany Ruby Patterson uses the ethnographic and literary work of Zora Neale Hurston to augment the few official documents, newspaper accounts, and family records that pertain to these places hidden from history. Hurston's ethnographies, plays, and fiction focused on the day-to-day life in all-black social spaces as well as "the Negro farthest down" in labor camps. Patterson shows how Hurston's work complements the fragmented historical record, using the folklore and stories to provide a full description of these people of these towns as active human subjects, shaped by history and shaping their private world. Beyond the view and domination of whites in these spaces, black people created their own codes of social behavior, honor, and justice. In Patterson's view Hurston renders her subjects faithfully and with respect for their individuality and endurance, enabling all people to envision an otherwise inaccessible world.
Zora Neale Hurston wrote her most famous work, the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, while in Haiti on a trip funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship to research the region’s transatlantic folk and religious culture for her study Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. The essays in Zora Neale Hurston, Haiti and Their Eyes Were Watching God persuasively demonstrate that Hurston’s study of Haitian Voudoun informed the characterization, plotting, symbolism and theme of her novel.
In 1948, false accusations of child molestation all but erased the reputation and career Zora Neale Hurston had worked for decades to build. Sensationalized in the profit-seeking press and relentlessly pursued by a prosecution more interested in a personal crusade than justice, the morals charge brought against her nearly drove her to suicide.
But she lived on. She lived on past her accuser’s admission that he had fabricated his whole story. She lived on for another twelve years, during which time she participated in some of the most remarkable events, movements, and projects of the day.
Since her death, scholars and the public have rediscovered Hurston’s work and conscientiously researched her biography. Nevertheless, the last decade of her life has remained relatively unexplored. Virginia Moylan fills in the details--investigating subjects as varied as Hurston’s reporting on the trial of Ruby McCollum (a black woman convicted of murdering her white lover), her participation in designing an "anthropologically correct" black baby doll to combat stereotypes, her impassioned and radical biography of King Herod, and her controversial objections to court-ordered desegregation.
In Zorba's Daughter, the 14th volume in the Swenson Poetry Award series, Elisabeth Murawski speaks from a vital and unique sensibility, finding in ordinary images an opening to the passion of human courage in the face of deep existential pain and ambivalence. These poems awaken our joy as well as guilt, our hope as well as grief. They often evoke a sorrowful music, like the voice of mourning, but even in pointing to "the black holes of heaven," Murawski turns our gaze upward.
Zorba's Daughter was selected for the Swenson Award by the distinguished poet Grace Schulman. An icon of the literary scene, Schulman is acclaimed for her searching, highly original, lyric poetry, as well as for her teaching and her influential tenure as the poetry editor at The Nation, (1971-2006). Harold Bloom calls her "one of the permanent poets of her generation." Richard Howard says, "she is a torch."
My Life in the Appalachian Woods
Crowe made his home in a small cabin he had helped to build years before--at a restless age when he could not have imagined that the place would one day call him back. The cabin sat on what was once the farm of an old mountain man named Zoro Guice. As we absorb Crowe's sharp observations on southern Appalachian natural history, we also come to know Zoro and the other singular folk who showed Crowe the mountain ways that would see him through those four years.
Crowe writes of many things: digging a root cellar, being a good listener, gathering wood, living in the moment, tending a mountain garden. He explores profound questions on wilderness, self-sufficiency, urban growth, and ecological overload. Yet we are never burdened by their weight but rather enriched by his thoughtfulness and delighted by his storytelling.
Zubir Said is best known as the composer of Majulah Singapura, the national anthem of Singapore, Semoga Bahagia, the Singapore school anthem, and Melayu Raya. Born into a humble and religious family in Sumatra where music was considered haram, at 21 he set out to seek his fortune in Singapore, attracted initially by the glittering lights and the availability of butter and kopi susu, but soon by the opportunities it offered him to pursue his dreams. Armed with his first musical instrument, a bamboo flute he had carved himself, and a basic knowledge of music number notations, Zubir taught himself to read, write and compose music. Despite the many challenges he faced, he became a musical icon of the 1950s and 1960s on both sides of the Straits of Johor, at a time when Independence was the clarion call and nationalist fervour was running high. This book, which includes numerous photographs, documents, musical scores and articles, as well as a CD of a selection of Zubir Said's compositions, vividly reveals one of Singapore's leading composers as family man, friend, composer and mentor. It also accords Zubir Said his rightful place in the history of Singapore.
Modernity, Margins, and the Avant-Garde
Inaugurated in 1932 by Louis Zukofsky, Objectivist poetry gave expression to the complex contours of culture and politics in America during the Great Depression. This study of Zukofsky and two others in the Objectivist constellation, George Oppen and Lorine Niedecker, elaborates the dialectic between the formal experimental features of their poetry and their progressive commitments to the radical potentials of modernity. Mixing textual analysis, archival research, and historiography, Ruth Jennison shows how Zukofsky, Oppen, and Niedecker braided their experiences as working-class Jews, political activists, and feminists into radical, canon-challenging poetic forms. Using the tools of critical geography, Jennison offers an account of the relationship between the uneven spatial landscapes of capitalism in crisis and the Objectivists’ paratactical textscapes. In a rethinking of the overall terms in which poetic modernism is described, she identifies and assesses the key characteristics of the Objectivist avant-garde, including its formal recognition of proliferating commodity cultures, its solidarity with global anticapitalist movements, and its imperative to develop poetics that nurtured revolutionary literacy. The resulting narrative is a historically sensitive, thorough, and innovative account of Objectivism’s Depression-era modernism. A rich analysis of American avant-garde poetic forms and politics, The Zukofsky Era convincingly situates Objectivist poetry as a politically radical movement comprising a crucial chapter in American literary history. Scholars and students of modernism especially will find much to discuss in Jennison’s theoretical study.