Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
The title of this ambitious study comes from Ralph Ellison's praise of Richard Wright's character Bigger Thomas in Native Son. An "indignant consciousness" led many mid-20th-century black writers and intellectuals to try to transform "their indignation at Jim Crow to manufacture ... strata of artworks that secured and pronounced a new era of psychological freedom for African Americans." Jackson (Emory Univ.) looks at many writers, including the too-often-neglected J. Saunders Reddings, who for Jackson embodies many of the aims and frustrations of his generation. Jackson smartly addresses the way literary realism's tendencies for social justice gave way to modernism, which eclipsed black writers' concerns with racial equality and "moral ugliness." The author organizes the study chronologically--1934 is when Richard Wright first became noticed and 1960 marks the rise of more strident writers--and takes the reader mainly to Washington, DC, New York, and Chicago. Rich with photos and well written, the book merits praise for the deserved attention it brings to the rise of African American criticism and intellectualism and to the many important people who figured in the rise of better-known novelists. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers. D. J. Rosenthal John Carroll University
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Using the career of the writer and literary critic J. Saunders Redding (1906-1988) as linchpin, Jackson (Ralph Ellison) surveys a little examined period-1934 to 1960-in African-American literature. On one hand, his encyclopedic book offers a chronological, old-fashioned history of literature, covering a period desperately in need of thoroughgoing research and detail, and presents a deeply documented, dense but thoroughly readable account. On the other hand, Jackson's book is news: he connects the writers (the common focus of literary history) to publishers, editors, periodicals, organizations; he links African-American writers to the "significant African American intellectual class teaching at black colleges." A near census of black writers and thinkers, Jackson's integrated account of a segregated world places white figures (e.g., Bucklin Moon, Lillian Smith, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac) on the map as well. Jackson's detail may offer more than the casual sightseer seeks, but scholars will rely upon and mine his monumental work and the prodigious research upon which it is based. It should guide the way African-American and American literature is studied. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Jackson (English & African American studies, Emory Univ.; Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius) has written a meticulously researched, detailed account of African American literature and its critics from the end of the Harlem Renaissance to the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. In 19 chapters, organized more or less chronologically, he discusses the work of a wide range of writers and critics, among them J. Saunders Redding, Sterling Brown, Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Chester Himes, Ann Petry, and Frank Yerby, paying particular attention to the African American author's need to develop a marketable audience and find outlets for publication. Additional topics include the divisions within the African American literary community itself; the roles played by the Communist Party and white, Southern liberals; and the effects of segregation, the Great Depression, and World War II on shaping the sensibilities of "the indignant generation." VERDICT A valuable resource for scholars and graduate students in African American studies.-William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.