No Telephone to Heaven

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Novels, United Kingdom, United States on 2016-06-23 23:51Z by Steven

No Telephone to Heaven

Plume
March 1996 (Originally published in 1987)
224 Pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780452275690

Michelle Cliff (1946-2016)

A brilliant Jamaican-American writer takes on the themes of colonialism, race, myth, and political awakening through the experiences of a light-skinned woman named Clare Savage. The story is one of discovery as Clare moves through a variety of settings – Jamaica, England, America – and encounters people who affect her search for place and self.

The structure of No Telephone to Heaven combines naturalism and lyricism, and traverses space and time, dream and reality, myth and history, reflecting the fragmentation of the protagonist, who nonetheless seeks wholeness and connection. In this deeply poetic novel there exist several levels: the world Clare encounters, and a world of which she only gradually becomes aware – a world of extreme poverty, the real Jamaica, not the Jamaica of the middle class, not the Jamaica of the tourist. And Jamaica – almost a character in the book – is described in terms of extraordinary beauty, coexisting with deep human tragedy.

The violence that rises out of extreme oppression, the divided loyalties of a colonized person, sexual dividedness, and the dividedness of a person neither white nor black – all of these are truths that Clare must face. Overarching all the themes in this exceptionally fine novel is the need to become whole, and the decisions and the courage demanded to achieve that wholeness.

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For You Were Strangers: A Hanley & Rivka Mystery

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2016-06-17 01:24Z by Steven

For You Were Strangers: A Hanley & Rivka Mystery

Allium Press of Chicago
2015
320 pages
6″ x 9″
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9890535-9-4
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9967558-0-1

D. M. Pirrone [Diane Piron-Gelman]
Chicago, Illinois

On a spring morning in 1872, former Civil War officer Ben Champion is discovered dead in his Chicago bedroom—a bayonet protruding from his back. What starts as a routine case for Detective Frank Hanley soon becomes anything but, as his investigation into Champion’s life turns up hidden truths best left buried. Meanwhile, Rivka Kelmansky’s long-lost brother, Aaron, arrives on her doorstep, along with his mulatto wife and son. Fugitives from an attack by night riders, Aaron and his family know too much about past actions that still threaten powerful men—defective guns provided to Union soldiers, and an 1864 conspiracy to establish Chicago as the capital of a Northwest Confederacy. Champion had his own connection to that conspiracy, along with ties to a former slave now passing as white and an escaped Confederate guerrilla bent on vengeance, any of which might have led to his death. Hanley and Rivka must untangle this web of circumstances, amid simmering hostilities still present seven years after the end of the Civil War, as they race against time to solve the murder, before the secrets of bygone days claim more victims.

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Decoding Racial Ideology in Genomics

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Novels, Social Science on 2016-06-10 17:08Z by Steven

Decoding Racial Ideology in Genomics

Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield)
May 2016
190 pages
Size: 6 x 9
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-7391-4895-2
eBook ISBN: 978-0-7391-4897-6

Johnny E. Williams, Associate Professor of Sociology
Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

Foreword by Joseph L. Graves Jr.

Although the human genome exists apart from society, knowledge about it is produced through socially-created language and interactions. As such, genomicists’ thinking is informed by their inability to escape the wake of the ‘race’ concept. This book investigates how racism makes genomics and how genomics makes racism and ‘race,’ and the consequences of these constructions. Specifically, Williams explores how racial ideology works in genomics. The simple assumption that frames the book is that ‘race’ as an ideology justifying a system of oppression is persistently recreated as a practical and familiar way to understand biological reality. This book reveals that genomicists’ preoccupation with ‘race’—regardless of good or ill intent—contributes to its perception as a category of differences that is scientifically rigorous.

  • Foreword, Joseph L. Graves, Jr.
  • Chapter 1: Genomics’ ‘Race’ Legacy
  • Chapter 2: Socialized Interpreters
  • Chapter 3: Racialized Culture—Genomic Nexus
  • Chapter 4: Racialization via Assertions of Objectivity and Heuristic Practice
  • Chapter 5: ‘Bad Science’ Discourse as Covering for Racial Thinking
  • Chapter 6: Reorienting Genomics
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The Mysteries of New Orleans

Posted in Books, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2016-06-08 21:47Z by Steven

The Mysteries of New Orleans

Johns Hopkins University Press
June 2002
600 pages
3 halftones
Paperback ISBN: 9780801868825

Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein (1826-1885)

translated and edited by:

Steven Rowan, Professor of History
University of Missouri, St. Louis

“Reizenstein’s peculiar vision of New Orleans is worth resurrecting precisely because it crossed the boundaries of acceptable taste in nineteenth-century German America and squatted firmly on the other side… This work makes us realize how limited our notions were of what could be conceived by a fertile American imagination in the middle of the nineteenth century.”—from the Introduction by Steven Rowan

A lost classic of America’s neglected German-language literary tradition, The Mysteries of New Orleans by Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein first appeared as a serial in the Louisiana Staats-Zeitung, a New Orleans German-language newspaper, between 1854 and 1855. Inspired by the gothic “urban mysteries” serialized in France and Germany during this period, Reizenstein crafted a daring occult novel that stages a frontal assault on the ethos of the antebellum South. His plot imagines the coming of a bloody, retributive justice at the hands of Hiram the Freemason—a nightmarish, 200-year-old, proto-Nietzschean superman—for the sin of slavery. Heralded by the birth of a black messiah, the son of a mulatto prostitute and a decadent German aristocrat, this coming revolution is depicted in frankly apocalyptic terms.

Yet, Reizenstein was equally concerned with setting and characters, from the mundane to the fantastic. The book is saturated with the atmosphere of nineteenth-century New Orleans, the amorous exploits of its main characters uncannily resembling those of New Orleans’ leading citizens. Also of note is the author’s progressively matter-of-fact portrait of the lesbian romance between his novel’s only sympathetic characters, Claudine and Orleana. This edition marks the first time that The Mysteries of New Orleans has been translated into English and proves that 150 years later, this vast, strange, and important novel remains as compelling as ever.

Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein (1826-1885) was born in Bavaria and emigrated to America in 1848. By 1851 he had established himself as a civil engineer, architect, journalist, amateur naturalist, and publisher in New Orleans, where he lived until his death.

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The Gilded Years, A Novel

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Women on 2016-06-07 14:42Z by Steven

The Gilded Years, A Novel

Washington Square Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
2016-06-07
384 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781501110450
eBook ISBN: 9781501110467

Karin Tanabe
Washington, D.C.

Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

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Anna In-Between

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Novels on 2016-05-29 14:44Z by Steven

Anna In-Between

Akashic Books
2010-08-17
352 pages
Paperback IBSN: 9781936070695
Hardcover IBSN: 9781933354842

Elizabeth Nunez, Distinguished Professor of English
Hunter College, the City University of New York

Anna In-Between is Elizabeth Nunez’s finest achievement to date. In spare prose, with laserlike attention to every word and the juxtaposition of words to each other, Nunez returns to her themes of emotional alienation, within the context of class and color discrimination, so richly developed in her earlier novels. Anna, the novel’s main character, who has a successful publishing career in the US, is the daughter of an upper-class Caribbean family. While on vacation in the island home of her birth she discovers that her mother, Beatrice, has breast cancer. Beatrice categorically rejects all efforts to persuade her to go to the US for treatment, even though it is, perhaps, her only chance of survival. Anna and her father, who tries to remain respectful of his wife’s wishes, must convince her to change her mind.

In a convergence of craftsmanship, unflinching honesty, and the ability to universalize the lives of her characters, Nunez tells a story that explores our longing for belonging to a community, the age-old love-repulsion relationship between mother and daughter, the Freudian overtones in the love between daughter and father, and the mutual respect that is essential for a successful marriage. One of the crowning achievements of this novel is that it shines a harsh light on the ambiguous situation of this ruling-class family who rose from the constraints of colonialism to employ their own servants. It is a strength of the novel that it understands that the political truth is not distinct from the truth of the family or the truth of love relationships; they are integrated into a unity in this novel constituting one unbroken reality as they are in real life.

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In Due Season

Posted in Books, Canada, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Novels on 2016-05-29 00:53Z by Steven

In Due Season

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
May 2016
375 pages
ISBN13: 978-1-77112-071-5

Christine van der Mark (1917–1970)

Afterword by:

Carole Gerson, Professor of English Department
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada

Janice Dowson, Lecturer in English literature and Academic Writing
Simon Fraser University and University of the Fraser Valley

First published in 1947, In Due Season broke new ground with its fictional representation of women and of Indigenous people. Set during the dustbowl 1930s, this tersely narrated prize-winning novel follows Lina Ashley, a determined solo female homesteader who takes her family from drought-ridden southern Alberta to a new life in the Peace River region. Here her daughter Poppy grows up in a community characterized by harmonious interactions between the local Métis and newly arrived European settlers. Still, there is tension between mother and daughter when Poppy becomes involved with a Métis lover. This novel expands the patriarchal canon of Canadian prairie fiction by depicting the agency of a successful female settler and, as noted by Dorothy Livesay, was “one of the first, if not the first Canadian novel wherein the plight of the Native Indian and the Métis is honestly and painfully recorded.” The afterword by Carole Gerson and Janice Dowson provides substantial information about author Christine van der Mark and situates her under-acknowledged book within the contexts of Canadian social, literary, and publishing history.

Christine van der Mark (1917–1970) was born and raised in Calgary. While teaching in rural Alberta schools, she attended the University of Alberta, receiving her B.A. in 1941 and her M.A. in Creative Writing in 1946. Much of her writing expressed sympathetic concern for the Métis of Northern Alberta.

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Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2016-05-15 20:52Z by Steven

Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

Broadview Press
2016-05-04 (Originally Published in 1894)
304 pages
5½” x 8½”
Paperback ISBN: 9781554812660

Mark Twain

Edited by:

Hsuan L. Hsu, Associate Professor of English
University of California, Davis

The two narratives published together in The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins are overflowing with spectacular events. Twain shows us conjoined twins, babies exchanged in the cradle, acts of cross-dressing and racial masquerade, duels, a lynching, and a murder mystery. Pudd’head Wilson tells the story of babies, one of mixed race and the other white, exchanged in their cradles, while Those Extraordinary Twins is a farcical tale of conjoined twins. Although the stories were long viewed as flawed narratives, their very incongruities offer a fascinating portrait of key issues—race, disability, and immigration—facing the United States in the final decades of the nineteenth century.

Hsuan Hsu’s introduction traces the history of literary critics’ response to these works, from the confusion of Twain’s contemporaries to the keen interest of current scholars. Extensive historical appendices provide contemporary materials on race discourse, legal contexts, and the composition and initial reception of the texts.

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Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings: A Novel

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2016-04-11 00:59Z by Steven

Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings: A Novel

Viking Books
2016-04-05
624 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525429968
Ebook ISBN: 9780698410336

Stephen O’Connor

A debut novel about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, in whose story the conflict between the American ideal of equality and the realities of slavery and racism played out in the most tragic of terms.

Novels such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird and Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks are a part of a long tradition of American fiction that plumbs the moral and human costs of history in ways that nonfiction simply can’t. Now Stephen O’Connor joins this company with a profoundly original exploration of the many ways that the institution of slavery warped the human soul, as seen through the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. O’Connor’s protagonists are rendered via scrupulously researched scenes of their lives in Paris and at Monticello that alternate with a harrowing memoir written by Hemings after Jefferson’s death, as well as with dreamlike sequences in which Jefferson watches a movie about his life, Hemings fabricates an “invention” that becomes the whole world, and they run into each other “after an unimaginable length of time” on the New York City subway. O’Connor is unsparing in his rendition of the hypocrisy of the Founding Father and slaveholder who wrote “all men are created equal,” while enabling Hemings to tell her story in a way history has not allowed her to. His important and beautifully written novel is a deep moral reckoning, a story about the search for justice, freedom and an ideal world—and about the survival of hope even in the midst of catastrophe.

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Blackass: A Novel

Posted in Africa, Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing on 2016-04-03 20:21Z by Steven

Blackass: A Novel

Graywolf Press
2016-03-01
272 pages
5.5 x 8.25
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-55597-733-7

A. Igoni Barrett

Furo Wariboko, a young Nigerian, awakes the morning before a job interview to find that he’s been transformed into a white man. In this condition he plunges into the bustle of Lagos to make his fortune. With his red hair, green eyes, and pale skin, it seems he’s been completely changed. Well, almost. There is the matter of his family, his accent, his name. Oh, and his black ass. Furo must quickly learn to navigate a world made unfamiliar, and deal with those who would use him for their own purposes. Taken in by a young woman called Syreeta and pursued by a writer named Igoni, Furo lands his first-ever job, adopts a new name, and soon finds himself evolving in unanticipated ways.

A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass is a fierce comic satire that touches on everything from race to social media while at the same time questioning the values society places on us, simply by virtue of the way we look. As he did in Love Is Power, or Something Like That, Barrett brilliantly depicts life in contemporary Nigeria, and details the double-dealing and code-switching that is implicit in everyday business. But it’s Furo’s search for an identity—one deeper than skin—that leads to the final unraveling of his own carefully constructed story.

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