Urban archaeological discoveries of the lost world of the Harlem Renaissance. Journalist and English professor Bascom (Western Conn. State Univ.) presents over 45 pieces written by WPA Writers— Project artists from Harlem. Contending that the Harlem Renaissance was deliberately misrepresented by elite intellectuals who mimicked establishment literary standards, Bascom has chosen stories that represent the common folk of the emerging 1930s ghetto. The lives of maids, prostitutes, fish vendors, railway porters, hairdressers, and their clients are vividly depicted. Pimps and other cheats, in or out of the community, get theirs. Other pieces describe Harlem rituals and everyday happenings largely unknown to outsiders—for example, the rent parties colorfully reported by Frank Byrd. To raise the rent, residents of Harlem raised the roof at Saturday-night parties, where guests “partook freely of fried chicken, pork chops, pigs feet, and potato salad, not to mention homemade ‘cawn’ liquor that was for sale in the kitchen or at a makeshift bar in the hallway.” Spirited bands and frenzied dancers helped black Harlemites forget they were charged rents that were 40 to 60 percent higher than whites paid for similar apartments. Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater, as described by Dorothy West, was an institution that attracted not only “swaggering blacks” and “holidaying hardworking Negroes,” but “sightseeing whites” and intruders called “jitterbug whites.” West disdains a white Amateur Night winner who sings, “Someone had to plow the cotton, Someone had to plant the corn, Someone had to work while the white folks played, That’s why darkies were born.” Many of the characters here fascinate, especially the charismatic Father Divine, who even recruited Jews into a spiritual empire that offered hope, salvation, and good food. A unique and valuable addition to the literature of the Harlem Renaissance, recovering works by notables like Dorothy West and Ralph Ellison as well as relative unknowns like Frank Byrd and Vivian Morris.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 1999

ISBN: 0-380-97664-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1999

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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