A collection of 14 essays by Walker (Jubilee, 1966; Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius, 1987) that serves as both a powerful social history and as a serious study of black American literature. Born into a family of teachers and ministers, Walker was fortunate to have met and been influenced by the poet Langston Hughes while still in high school. It was his influence, she says, and her family's emphasis on education, that convinced her to continue writing despite the odds against a southern black woman. Her association with Richard Wright in Chicago and her work with the WPA provided the practical experience and instilled the political consciousness that permeates her work. The first batch of essays, here particularly ""Growing Out of Shadow"" and ""Willing To Pay the Price,"" deal with those early years. The emotion-packed ""How I Told My Child About Race"" is a rambling but potent lesson on how to pass on the history without the bitterness and hatred. And the title piece, ""How I Wrote Jubilee,"" is an interesting look at the birth and growth of a novel; it is also the story of Walker's search for her roots. The second section of essays, although primarily literary, nevertheless are revealing on a personal level. ""Rediscovering Black Women Writers in the Mecca of the New Negro"" and ""The Humanistic Tradition of Afro-American Literature"" clearly express Walker's preference for the intellectual and compassionate in black literature as opposed to the more strident and confrontational. Walker tidily sums up her career--well-represented by these essays dating from the 1940's through the 1980's--by writing ""All I have ever written or desire to write is motivated by the fact that I am a Negro living in America. . .As a writer, however, my commitment has to be to the one thing I can do best, and that is to the business of writing.