Poet and journalist Powell (Keepin’ It Real, 1997) is one of the most audible and outspoken advocates of the young black literary voice on the scene today. He has here assembled the essays, fiction, poetry, criticism, and journalism of more than 100 young writers. Although of predictably variable quality, most entries are engaging and provocative, with stand-out work by Malcolm Gladwell (“The Sports Taboo: Why Blacks are Like Boys and Whites are Like Girls”), Daphne Brooks (a critical piece on Oprah’s book club), Erin Aubrey (a consideration of Ebonics), Scott Poulson-Bryant (an insightful article on Sean “Puffy” Combs), and the very beautiful and often disturbing fiction of such talents as Junot Díaz, Christopher John Farley, John Keene, Victor D. La Valle, Phylis Alesia Perry, and Bernardine Evaristo. Considering a wide range of subjects (including sexuality, violence, feminism, linguistics, politics, prostitution, music, love, media, and spirituality), these short works are linked only by the racial origins of their authors. Powell’s decision to alphabetize entries within categories serves to reiterate this lack of overriding theme and to emphasize the infinite range and flexibility of this, the new world of black writers.
A fascinating collection of work from established authors and bold new voices.