Books by Arnold Rampersad

Released: Feb. 13, 2015

"A privileged perspective on the man and his art."
The renowned poet's life revealed in letters. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2013

"Well-intentioned, and at least as valuable for its editorial additions as its lyric contents. (index) (Poetry. 10-13)"
A sampler worth sampling, despite pallid illustrations and a roster entirely made up of dead or veteran poets. Read full book review >
RALPH ELLISON by Arnold Rampersad
Released: April 20, 2007

"A revealing exploration of Ellison's life and work."
A superb biography of the noted African-American writer and the tormented times in which he lived. Read full book review >
Released: April 3, 2006

"So long, / so far away / is Africa. / Not even memories alive / Save those that history books create, / Save those that songs / Beat back into the blood." Selected and annotated by two authorities on the poet, these 26 short poems capture both the innovative rhythms and pervasive themes in the work of the most widely read African-American poet of his day—if not ever. Andrews's art captures its tone just as perfectly; his angular, dark-skinned figures look down reflectively even when dancing, and seem solitary even when placed among crowds. Readers will come away with a clear sense of Hughes's influences ("I too sing America" is a direct response to a Walt Whitman lyric) and distinct voice—as well as a powerful urge to look up the three-times-longer collection Dream Keeper (1994 edition illustrated by Brian Pinkney). (introduction, index, glossaries for each poem) (Poetry. 9+)Read full book review >
JACKIE ROBINSON by Arnold Rampersad
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

Avoiding the sentimentality surrounding the 50th anniversary of Robinson's major-league debut, Rampersad compellingly projects his life against the backdrop of the persons and institutions that affected him and that he, in turn, helped to change. Jack Roosevelt Robinson's early life in Georgia and California was more or less defined by racial segregation. Tracing Robinson's journey through college, military service in WW II, professional baseball, marriage, fatherhood, and his later careers in business and public service, Rampersad (author of a two-volume biography of Langston Hughes) demonstrates how Robinson's determination was often both his greatest strength and his Achilles' heel. Nowhere was this more obvious than during his brilliant baseball career, where his combativeness occasionally put him at odds with fans, opponents, and even teammates. Robinson's transition from baseball to ``private'' life in 1957 was smooth—the game had left him modestly wealthy and socially well connected. However, he did encounter difficulties during these years. Quick to take to the stump for a cause or a friend, Robinson sometimes clashed with other civil rights and political leaders, including Malcolm X, whose appeals for black separatism frustrated the integrationist pioneer. During the tumult of the '60s, Robinson became estranged from his eldest son, Jackie Jr., who after being wounded in Vietnam, later fell into a cycle of crime and drug dependency. (Jackie eventually recovered and was reconciled with his father, only to die in a motor accident in 1971.) After Robinson's death in 1972, President Richard Nixon, a longtime friend and admirer, hailed him for having ``brought a new human dimension not only to the game of baseball but to every area of American life.'' A former opponent, Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, spoke another kind of truth, about Robinson, both as a ballplayer and as an idealist : ``He could beat you in a lot of ways.'' Somewhat languidly paced but nevertheless gripping, this oustanding biography is in every way worthy of its esteemed subject. (24 pages photos, not seen) (First printing of 200,000; Book-of-the-Month Club selection) Read full book review >
DAYS OF GRACE by Arthur Ashe
Released: June 23, 1993

A genuinely affecting testament from the quietly activist champion-athlete who died young this past February. With an unobtrusive assist from Rampersad (The Life of Langston Hughes, 1988), Ashe offers a thoughtful, if episodic, appreciation of his well-spent life. Opening with a replay of the distressing events leading up to his dramatic disclosure in April 1992 that he'd contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion following open-heart surgery ten years earlier, the author takes a leisurely and comfortably digressive stroll down memory lane, evenhandedly recalling—among other matters—just what it was like to be the first black to compete successfully in the predominantly white world of big-time tennis. The winner of three Grand Slam titles, Ashe developed heart disease that ended his pro career while still near the top of his game. Subsequently appointed captain of America's Davis Cup team, he proved there can be fulfilling life after sports. A low-key, albeit effective, advocate of racial justice and allied causes, the globe-trotting author enjoyed an uncommonly felicitous personal life. With time out for candid commentary on fellow touring pros (Connors, McEnroe, Smith, et al.), he includes a host of heartfelt tributes to his wife, parents, and others who helped him along an upward path. With considerable eloquence and dignity, Ashe also affirms the do-as- you-would-be-done-by precepts that sustained him. He closes with a poignant letter to his young daughter, which, though written in anticipation of death, looks to the future with some hope, as well as backward to her strong family roots. A class act that, sadly, will have no encore. (Thirty-two pages of photos—not seen) (First printing of 150,000) Read full book review >