THE SLEEPER WAKES by Marcy Knopf

THE SLEEPER WAKES

Harlem Renaissance Stories by Women
edited by

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Fourteen black women write of racism and exploitation, passing southern folkways, social and color discrimination within the black community, and love and corruption among upper-class whites--all in styles that range from romantic melodrama to social realism, irony to broad humor. Many of the 28 stories here--written during the flowering of black literary culture in the 20's and 30's and most published originally in African-American magazines (The Crisis, Opportunity, etc.)--have never before been reprinted. For those who know Harlem Renaissance names like Jessie Redmon Fauset and Nella Larsen without having found examples of their work, Knopf's anthology provides a convenient introduction, although--perhaps typical for magazine fiction--many of the pieces are less valuable as literature than for what they reveal about the cultural context. Dorothy West writes affectingly of family situations impinged upon by racial issues. In Marita Bonner's more tragic vision, the narrator of ``One Boy's Story'' plays out a bloody, mythic drama. Leila Amos Pendleton's uneducated protagonist insists Socrates (``Sockertees'') and Cleopatra (``Clea Patrick'') were black; in spite of the Afrocentric vision, her dialect stories would probably not pass muster today. The ``wonder-quality of her soul'' can't stop Angelina Weld GrimkÇ's tragic Agnes from a desperate act of violence. Zora Neale Hurston's ``John Redding Goes to Sea,'' written while Hurston was an undergraduate at Howard, confirms her critical standing by showing her youthful skill and talent. Editor Knopf (Univ. of Wisconsin) also provides historical background, brief bios for 11 authors; her discussion of the fiction rarely goes beyond summary and sometimes reveals surprise endings. Not always a great read, but the only anthology of its kind.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8135-1944-6
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Rutgers Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993




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