Harlem Renaissance: five novels of the 1920s edited by Rafia Zafar

Mar 04

Harlem Renaissance: five novels of the 1920s edited by Rafia Zafar


This was a very interesting read. Harlem Renaissance: Five Novels of the 1920s edited by Rafia Zafar, is just as the title suggests–five novels written by African American authors during or about the Harlem Renaissance. This was a fascinating period in black history for many reasons. One, it is where a lot of black intellectuals began to become known in various fields–literature, music, art, scholarly pursuits. It really was a golden age for post-slavery African Americans. The five novels in this book are: Jean Toomer’s Cane written in 1923 — it is a story about a woman in Georgia, a teacher, who struggles with who she is as a black woman and how her ‘race’ affects her; Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem written in 1928, a story of two young men with very different backgrounds, both African American, and how they deal with the prejudices and stereotypes of white America — it is rich with culture–jazz and excitement– prohibition and drinking, and even sex– this is a story of defining a race from within the race and starting a cultural revolution, it is a good peek into Harlem in the 1920’s; next was Nella Larsen’s Quicksand which is a story about a woman who is half black, half white–she struggles with who she is, who her people are and how she can connect within a society so divided when she is not white or black but both; Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun written in 1928 is the story of two African American sisters–they are different in many ways–one, the main character, is pale and can pass as a white person and so she does, but she learns how deserting your roots and your culture is not always the best thing, rarely ever is, actually, but how to be black in a white dominant culture is the question she is trying to answer; and finally Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry written in 1929, is a story about a young woman, Emma, who is very dark skinned and how this influenced how other African Americans, as well as whites, treated her, this story digs into how the culture of color went inside the African American communities as well as the obvious discrimination by the white community.

All of these stories give ample, rich examples of life during the Harlem renaissance. It is definitely worth reading, Harlem Renaissance: Five Novels of the 1920’s.


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