Cover image for Remembering generations : race and family in contemporary African American fiction
Remembering generations : race and family in contemporary African American fiction
Rushdy, Ashraf H. A., 1961-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiii, 209 pages ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS374.N4 R87 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS374.N4 R87 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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Slavery is America's family secret, a partially hidden phantom that continues to haunt our national imagination. Remembering Generations explores how three contemporary African American writers artistically represent this notion in novels about the enduring effects of slavery on the descendants of slaves in the post-civil rights era.

Focusing on Gayl Jones's Corregidora (1975), David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident (1981), and Octavia Butler's Kindred (1979), Ashraf Rushdy situates these works in their cultural moment of production, highlighting the ways in which they respond to contemporary debates about race and family. Tracing the evolution of this literary form, he considers such works as Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family (1998), in which descendants of slaveholders expose the family secrets of their ancestors.

Remembering Generations examines how cultural works contribute to social debates, how a particular representational form emerges out of a specific historical epoch, and how some contemporary intellectuals meditate on the issue of historical responsibility--of recognizing that the slave past continues to exert an influence on contemporary American society.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Arguing that slavery is America's "family secret" with profound, often unacknowledged historical effects, Rushdy (Wesleyan) focuses on Gayl Jones's Corregadora, David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident, and Octavia Butler's Kindred--black "palimpsest narratives" in which first-person narrators come to terms in the 1970s with issues of (respectively) memory, family, and race originating in their slave heritage. Chapter 1 points out multifarious 1970s developments that led to these novels. Chapters 2-4 explore the novels: in Corregadora, Ursa's memories of tales of three maternal ancestors, mainly of sexual desire, procreation, and a slavemaster's mistreatment, leading to her "discovery" of her great-grandmother's "secret" and to reconciliation with her first husband; in Bradley's novel, John's search for the "secret" location and cause of his father's death, leading to his "discovery" of his great-grandfather's "secret" life, death, and burial and to acceptance of his white lover; in Kindred, Dana's repeated returns to the antebellum South, leading to her discovery of her "secret" white great-grandfather as cruel slavemaster and to renewed appreciation of her white husband. In chapter 5 Rushdy treats two recent (1990s) nonfiction works by white descendants of slavemasters, books that continue and extend the concerns of the novels. Copious endnotes, most with multiple listings, make the absence of a bibliography unfortunate. J. E. Steiner emeritus, Drew University