Scholarly perspectives on the mixed race experience.
If we’re going to play race games let’s do it scientifically. For example, if you’re black that’s meaningless unless you specify Bantu, Hutu/Tutsi, San, or any number of other lineages within Africa. Africa has the biggest human variety in the world. Obama looks totally different from the rest of the Black Caucus; it’s because he is. He belongs to a different biological lineage. He’s not a Bantu. But most American blacks are mixed-race, of course, like Obama himself.
Likewise, if you're pure Irish, your race is Gaelic. If you’re Irish-English, you’re Gaelic-Caucasian or something close to that. If you look blond, you’re likely to be a Northern European. If you’re Jewish but you look like a Russian, you are Semitic-Nordic-Slavic. If you’re Jewish and you look like a Spaniard, you’re Semitic-Hispanic. If you’re Jewish from Yemen, you’re probably Semitic-Arabic. If you’re a pure cohen, you’re Semitic back some 3,000 years, especially if you have heritable diseases like Tay-Sachs. But of course going earlier than that, there are plenty of generations back to the human population bottleneck in North Africa, where humans were reduced to some 5,000 individuals. That’s the shared founding population for all of us.(And everybody was Black at that time.).
From the massively talented Gish Jen comes a barbed, moving, and stylistically dazzling new novel about the elusive nature of kinship. The Wongs describe themselves as a “half half” family, but the actual fractions are more complicated, given Carnegie’s Chinese heritage, his wife Blondie’s WASP background, and the various ethnic permutations of their adopted and biological children. Into this new American family comes a volatile new member. Her name is Lanlan. She is Carnegie’s Mainland Chinese relative, a tough, surprisingly lovely survivor of the Cultural Revolution, who comes courtesy of Carnegie’s mother’s will. Is Lanlan a very good nanny, a heartless climber, or a posthumous gift from a formidable mother who never stopped wanting her son to marry a nice Chinese girl? Rich in insight, buoyed by humor, The Love Wife is a hugely satisfying work.
The moment just before Radar Radmanovic is born, all of the hospital’s electricity mysteriously fails. The delivery takes place in total darkness. Lights back on, the staff sees a healthy baby boy—with pitch-black skin—born to the stunned white parents. No one understands the uncanny electrical event or the unexpected skin color. “A childbirth is an explosion,” the ancient physician says by way of explanation. “Some shrapnel is inevitable, isn’t it?”
A kaleidoscopic novel both heartbreaking and dazzling, Reif Larsen’s I Am Radar begins with Radar’s perplexing birth but rapidly explodes outward, carrying readers across the globe and throughout history, as well as to unknown regions where radio waves and subatomic particles dance to their own design. Spanning this extraordinary range with grace and empathy, humor and courage, I Am Radar is the vessel where a century of conflict and art unite in a mesmerizing narrative whole.
Deep in arctic Norway, a cadre of Norwegian schoolteachers is imprisoned during the Second World War. Founding a radical secret society that will hover on the margins of recorded history for decades to come, these schoolteachers steal radioactive material from a hidden Nazi nuclear reactor and use it to stage a surreal art performance on a frozen coastline. This strange society appears again in the aftermath of Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime, when another secret performance takes place but goes horrifically wrong. Echoes of this disaster can be heard during the Yugoslavian wars, when an avant-garde puppeteer finds himself trapped inside Belgrade while his brother serves in the genocidal militia that attacks Srebrenica. Decades later, in the war-torn Congo, a disfigured literature professor assembles the largest library in the world even as the country around him collapses. All of these stories are linked by Radar—now a gifted radio operator living in the New Jersey Meadowlands—who struggles with love, a set of hapless parents, and a terrible medical affliction that he has only just begun to comprehend
As I Am Radar accelerates toward its unforgettable conclusion, these divergent strands slowly begin to converge, revealing that beneath our apparent differences, unseen harmonies secretly unite our lives. Drawing on the furthest reaches of quantum physics, forgotten history, and mind-bending art, Larsen’s I Am Radar is a triumph of storytelling at its most primal, elegant, and epic: a breathtaking journey through humanity’s darkest hours only to arrive at a place of shocking wonder and redemption.
John F. Blair
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-89587-635-5
Tiya Miles, Elsa Barkley Brown Collegiate Professor of African American Women’s History University of Michigan
Written by an award-winning historian and recipient of a recent MacArthur “Genius Grant,” The Cherokee Rose explores territory reminiscent of the bestselling and beloved works of Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, and Louise Erdrich. Now, Tiya Miles’s luminous but highly accessible novel examines a little-known aspect of America’s past—slaveholding by Southern Creeks and Cherokees—and its legacy in the lives of three young women who are drawn to the Georgia plantation where scenes of extreme cruelty and equally extraordinary compassion once played out.
Based on the author’s in-depth and award-winning research into archival sources at the Chief Vann House Historic Site in Chatsworth, Georgia, and the Moravian mission sponsored there in the early 1800s, Miles has blended this fascinating history with a contemporary cast of engaging and memorable characters, including Jinx, the free-spirited historian exploring her tribe’s complicated racial history; Ruth, whose mother sought refuge from a troubled marriage in her beloved garden and the cosmetic empire she built from its bounty; Cheyenne, the Southern black debutante seeking to connect with a meaningful personal history; and, hovering above them all, the spirit of long-gone Mary Ann Battis, a young woman suspected of burning a mission to the ground and then disappearing from tribal records. Together, the women’s discoveries about the secrets of the Cherokee plantation trace their attempts to connect with the strong spirits of the past and reconcile the conflicts in their own lives.
Scribner (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
Paperback ISBN: 9780743264495
eBook ISBN: 9780743277419
Charles Johnson, Pollock Professor of English University of Washington, Seattle
One night in the antebellum South, a slave owner and his African-American butler stay up to all hours until, too drunk to face their wives, they switch places in each other’s beds. The result is a hilarious imbroglio and an offspring — Andrew Hawkins, whose life becomes Oxherding Tale.
Through sexual escapades, picaresque adventures, and philosophical inquiry, Hawkins navigates white and black worlds and comments wryly on human nature along the way. Told with pure genius, Oxherding Tale is a deliciously funny, bitterly ironic account of slavery, racism, and the human spirit; and it reveals the author as a great talent with even greater humanity.
A female vicar named Sarah Hussein is discovered strangled in her Kingsmarkham vicarage. A single mother to a teenage girl, Hussein was working in a male-dominated profession. Moreover, she was of mixed race and wanted to modernize the church. Could racism or sexism have played a factor in her murder?
Maxine, the gossipy cleaning woman who discovered the body, happens to also be in the employ of retired Chief Inspector Wexford and his wife. Wexford is intrigued by the unusual circumstances of the murder, and when he is invited by his old deputy to tag along with the investigators, he leaps at the chance.
As Wexford searches the Vicar’s house, he sees a book on her bedside table. Inside the book is a letter serving as a bookmark. Without thinking much, Wexford puts it into his pocket. Wexford soon realizes he has made a grave error in removing a piece of valuable evidence from the scene without telling anybody. Yet what he finds inside begins to illuminate the murky past of Sarah Hussein. Is there more to her than meets the eye?
West Virginia University Press
October 2014 (originally published in 1905)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-935978-91-6
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-940425-23-8
ePub ISBN: 978-1-935978-93-0
PDF ISBN: 978-1-935978-92-3
R. J. Ellis, Professor of American Studies University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858-1932) was an African American writer, essayist, Civil Rights activist, legal-stenography businessman, and lawyer whose novels and short stories explore race, racism, and the problematic contours of African Americans’ social and cultural identities in post-Civil War South. He was the first African American to be published by a major American publishing house and served as a beacon-point for future African American writers.
The Colonel’s Dream, written in 1905, is a compelling tale of the post-Civil War South’s degeneration into a region awash with virulent racist practices against African Americans: segregation, lynchings, disenfranchisement, convict-labor exploitation, and endemic violent repression. The events in this novel are powerfully depicted from the point of view of a philanthropic but unreliable southern white colonel. Upon his return to the South, the colonel learns to abhor this southern world, as a tale of vicious racism unfolds. Throughout this narrative, Chesnutt confronts the deteriorating position of African Americans in an increasingly hostile South. Upon its publication The Colonel’s Dream was considered too controversial and unpalatable because of its bitter criticisms of southern white prejudice and northern indifference, and so this groundbreaking story failed to gain public attention and acclaim.
This is the first scholarly edition of The Colonel’s Dream. It includes an introduction and notes by R. J. Ellis and works to reestablish this great novel’s reputation.
M. Giulia Fabi, Associate professor of American literature University of Ferrara, Italy
First published in December 1853, Clotel was written amid then unconfirmed rumors that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with one of his slaves. The story begins with the auction of his mistress, here called Currer, and their two daughters, Clotel and Althesa. The Virginian who buys Clotel falls in love with her, gets her pregnant, seems to promise marriage—then sells her. Escaping from the slave dealer, Clotel returns to Virginia disguised as a white man in order to rescue her daughter, Mary, a slave in her father’s house. A fast-paced and harrowing tale of slavery and freedom, of the hypocrisies of a nation founded on democratic principles, Clotel is more than a sensationalist novel. It is a founding text of the African American novelistic tradition, a brilliantly composed and richly detailed exploration of human relations in a new world in which race is a cultural construct.
First time in Penguin Classics
Published in time for African-American History Month
Includes appendices that show the different endings Brown created for the various later versions of Clotel, along with the author’s narrative of his “Life and Escape,” Introduction, suggested readings, and comprehensive explanatory notes
Ezra Greenspan, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of English Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Born into slavery in Kentucky, William Wells Brown (1814–1884) was kept functionally illiterate until after his escape at the age of nineteen. Remarkably, he became the most widely published and versatile African American writer of the nineteenth century as well as an important leader in the abolitionist and temperance movements.
Brown wrote extensively as a journalist but was also a pioneer in other literary genres. His many groundbreaking works include Clotel, the first African American novel; The Escape: or, A Leap for Freedom, the first published African American play; Three Years in Europe, the first African American European travelogue; and The Negro in the American Rebellion, the first history of African American military service in the Civil War. Brown also wrote one of the most important fugitive slave narratives and a striking array of subsequent self-narratives so inventively shifting in content, form, and textual presentation as to place him second only to Frederick Douglass among nineteenth-century African American autobiographers.
Ezra Greenspan has selected the best of Brown’s work in a range of fields including fiction, drama, history, politics, autobiography, and travel. The volume opens with an introductory essay that places Brown and his work in a cultural and political context. Each chapter begins with a detailed introductory headnote, and the contents are closely annotated; there is also a selected bibliography. This reader offers an introduction to the work of a major African American writer who was engaged in many of the important debates of his time.
Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies Harvard University
When a murder takes place in Dawson’s Landing, Missouri, the lives of twin Italian noblemen, the courageous slave Roxy, her 1/32nd “black” son who has been raised “white,” and a failing lawyer with an intense interest in the science of fingerprinting become tangled. The unsolved riddle at the heart of Pudd’nhead Wilson is less the identity of the murderer than it is the question of whether nature or nurture makes the man. In his introduction, Werner Sollors illuminates the complex web of uncertainty that is the switched-and-doubled-identity world of Mark Twain’s novel. This edition follows the text of the 1899 De Luxe edition and for the first time reprints all the E. W. Kemble illustrations that accompanied it.
An award-winning writer delivers a poignant and provocative novel of identity, race and the search for belonging in the age of globalization.
One afternoon, not long after Kelly Thorndike has moved back to his hometown of Baltimore, an African American man he doesn’t recognize calls out to him. To Kelly’s shock, the man identifies himself as Martin, who was one of Kelly’s closest friends in high school—and, before his disappearance nearly twenty years before, skinny, white, and Jewish. Martin then tells an astonishing story: After years of immersing himself in black culture, he’s had a plastic surgeon perform “racial reassignment surgery”—altering his hair, skin, and physiognomy to allow him to pass as African American. Unknown to his family or childhood friends, Martin has been living a new life ever since.
Now, however, Martin feels he can no longer keep his new identity a secret; he wants Kelly to help him ignite a controversy that will help sell racial reassignment surgery to the world. Kelly, still recovering from the death of his wife and child and looking for a way to begin anew, agrees, and things quickly begin to spiral out of control.
Inventive and thought-provoking, Your Face in Mine is a brilliant novel about cultural and racial alienation and the nature of belonging in a world where identity can be a stigma or a lucrative brand.