Cover image for Contemporary African American novelists : a bio-bibliographical critical sourcebook
Contemporary African American novelists : a bio-bibliographical critical sourcebook
Nelson, Emmanuel S. (Emmanuel Sampath), 1954-
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xx, 530 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1330 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS374.N4 C658 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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During the last two decades, African American writers have emerged as a distinct and dominant force in world literature. This force has been gathering momentum since the 1950s, when James Baldwin published some of his most compelling works and Ralph Ellison stunned the literary establishment with his dazzling Invisible Man (1952). Empowered by the Civil Rights Movement and revitalized by the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, this force became more potent and pervasive. The publication of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye in 1970 was a major event in the literary history of the United States. With a voice as original as America itself, she began to conquer the English language and redefine the international literary landscape. Along with Morrison, scores of African American writers have mapped bold new territories and firmly entrenched themselves in the forefront of contemporary American literature. This reference book is a guide to the lives, works, and achievements of 79 contemporary African American novelists.

Through alphabetically arranged entries written by expert contributors, this volume offers lively, concise, and current information about these writers. Each entry begins with a biographical sketch of the author, provides a judicious critical assessment of the author's major works and themes, gives a representative sample of the critical responses the author's novels have elicited, and concludes with a selected bibliography that lists the author's publications as well as useful secondary material. Included are major figures, such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison. There are also entries for many noteworthy but lesser known figures, such as Tina McElroy Ansa, Bebe Moore Campbell, Randall Kenan, Reginald McKnight, Marita Golden, and Arthur Flowers. Some are popular writers with mass appeal, such as Terri McMillan and Frank Yerby; others, such as Octavia E. Butler, are known for their science fiction. Still others are distinguished poets or playwrights who have also published one or more significant novels. Of the 79 novelists profiled, 41 are women, and roughly a dozen have identified themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Thus the volume demonstrates the enormous diversity of these writers and the breadth of their contribution to world literature.

Author Notes

EMMANUEL S. NELSON is Professor of English at the State University of New York College at Cortland. He is the author of more than 30 articles on various international literatures in English, and his books include Reworlding: The Literature of the Indian Diaspora (1992), Contemporary Gay American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (1993), and Writers of the Indian Diaspora: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (1993), all available from Greenwood Press.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The past 20-odd years have seen the emergence of a significant body of African American fiction. Providing reliable, thorough, and up-to-date biographical, critical, and bibliographic information about that literature for advanced scholars, undergraduates, and general readers is the stated goal of this work. The 79 profiled writers include major novelists, such as Toni Morrison and John Edgar Wideman, as well as such lesser-known writers as Steven Corbin and Dawn Turner Trice. The word contemporary in the title is somewhat elastic. Although most of the writers featured have written in the past thirty years, several had their most prolific period in the 1940s and 1950s. And although each author has written at least one novel, some of them are better known for their poetry, plays, or nonfiction. Forty-one of the writers are women. Entries range from 4 to 19 pages, with most encompassing 5 pages. Each author's profile begins with a short biography. A discussion of the writer's major works and themes follows, with an overview of the critical reception in both popular and scholarly journals. Each entry concludes with a bibliography that lists the works of the profiled author and secondary sources for further investigation. The bibliographies are not completely up-to-date. Although novels published as recently as 1998 are included in several entries, others, such as Bebe Moore Campbell's Singing in the Comeback Choir and Gloria Naylor's Men of Brewster Place, are not, perhaps because they were published too late in the year. The bibliography for Alice Walker ends unaccountably in 1992. The stated purpose of this book is to be a "scholarly guide to the lives, works, and achievements" of the writers profiled. Some of the entries accomplish this, with thorough, perceptive analysis, although others are cursory, providing little insight into the subject covered. The benefit of a compendium such as this is that a number of authors are covered in one handy volume, and some may be hard to find elsewhere. For more prominent writers, both general readers and scholarly researchers will be better served by other resources, such as Gale's Contemporary Authors.

Library Journal Review

This volume provides biographical, critical, and bibliographical material on 79 black writers (41 of them women), ranging from such luminaries as Alice Walker to lesser-known artists like Philip Lewis. In collecting pieces on a spectrum of novelists, this book could serve a useful purpose, but it is marred by several flaws. First, there are some notable omissions, including Amiri Baraka and Rosa Guy. More importantly, some of the entries are of uneven quality. The book would have benefited from more rigorous editing to update information, check facts, correct inconsistencies in style, and tighten the writing. It is most valuable for the pieces on several recent and/or overlooked writers who have not yet received the critical attention they deserve (e.g., Melvin Dixon, Marita Golden). For other authors, readers will be better served by African American Writers (LJ 6/1/91) or the volumes on black writers in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.Louis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Nelson (SUNY Cortland) and 63 contributors have compiled a resource covering 79 writers, 41 of whom are women. They profile novelists of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in all genres: serious writers (Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Gloria Naylor), popular writers (Terry McMillan, Frank Yerby), and writers of detective fiction (Walter Mosley, Chester Himes). Writers in other genres are included if they have written at least one novel, hence there are entries for poets (Gwendolyn Brooks, Ishmael Reed) and playwrights (Ed Bullins, Ntozake Shange). Entries range in length from four to twelve pages and follow a standard format: biography, major works and themes, and critical reception. Entries are accompanied by two-part bibliographies that list works and critical sources. In her introductory essay, Deborah Plant (Univ. of South Florida) considers the theme of freedom in the African American literary tradition. A search in Gale's Literary Index found that approximately 95 percent of the entries were profiled in sources such as Contemporary Authors and Black Literature Criticism. Libraries supporting African American studies will need to acquire this title; others may want it for the contents of the introductory essay and as a supplementary resource. M. Stark Southern Methodist University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
Introductionp. xv
Tina Mcelroy Ansap. 1
Doris Jean Austinp. 6
James Baldwinp. 12
Toni Cade Bambarap. 22
Barry Beckhamp. 29
Hal Bennettp. 36
David Henry Bradley, Jrp. 42
Gwendolyn Brooksp. 47
Cecil Morris Brownp. 53
Frank London Brownp. 58
Ed Bullinsp. 64
Octavia E. Butlerp. 69
Bebe Moore Campbellp. 76
Barbara Chase-Riboudp. 82
Alice Childressp. 88
Michelle Cliffp. 95
Cyrus Colterp. 102
Steven Corbinp. 108
Samuel Delanyp. 115
William Dembyp. 122
Melvin Dixonp. 129
Larry Duplechanp. 137
Ralph Waldo Ellisonp. 142
Arthur R. Flowersp. 154
Leon Forrestp. 158
Albert Frenchp. 164
Ernest J. Gainesp. 168
Marita Goldenp. 177
Sam Greenleep. 185
Bill Gunnp. 192
E Lynn Harrisp. 198
Chester B. Himesp. 203
Kristin Hunterp. 211
Blyden Jacksonp. 215
Charles Johnsonp. 220
Gayl Jonesp. 227
June Jordanp. 233
William Melvin Kelleyp. 238
Randall Kenanp. 243
John Oliver Killensp. 250
Jamaica Kincaidp. 260
Andrea Leep. 267
Audrey Leep. 273
Philip Lewisp. 279
Audre Lordep. 284
Clarence Majorp. 289
Paule Marshallp. 295
Sharon Bell Mathisp. 304
John A. Mccluskey, Jrp. 309
Reginald Mcknightp. 314
Terry Mcmillanp. 319
Louise Meriwetherp. 327
Toni Morrisonp. 331
Walter Mosleyp. 350
Albert Murrayp. 355
Walter Dean Myersp. 360
Gloria Naylorp. 366
Ann Petryp. 377
Carlene Hatcher Politep. 384
Ishmael Reedp. 391
Jewell Parker Rhodesp. 401
Dori Sandersp. 407
Sapphirep. 411
Gil Scott-Heronp. 416
Ntozake Shangep. 421
Charlotte Watson Shermanp. 427
Ann Allen Shockleyp. 433
April Sinclairp. 438
Ellease Southerlandp. 443
Joyce Carol Thomasp. 449
Dawn Turner Tricep. 454
Alice Walkerp. 458
Margaret Walkerp. 469
Dorothy Westp. 475
John Edgar Widemanp. 482
Sherley Anne Williamsp. 491
Jacqueline Woodsonp. 495
Sarah Elizabeth Wrightp. 500
Frank Garvin Yerbyp. 505
Selectedp. 513
Indexp. 515
About the Editor and Contributorsp. 525