Seventy-one African-American writers donate their talent to benefit the Hurston/Wright Foundation.
Veteran editor Golden (The Edge of Heaven, 1998, etc.), president and founding director of Hurston/Wright, writes that “The African American writer has, of necessity, been visionary and witness, a channel for an individual sense of story even while recognizing that for Black people in America, writing is fighting.” Although many, if not all, other races would argue that writing is fighting for them as well, Golden is still right. But if in a collection benefiting the foundation named for Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston you think you might get to read works by them, think again. They’re missing, as are Toni Morrison, James McPherson, and Charles Johnson—in fact, a list of prominent writers who are absent may be more impressive than one of those present. But not to worry: both of the editors, Golden and Harris (Not a Day Goes By, 2000), are represented. A sampling of these sometimes new, sometimes previously published tales also includes Edwidge Danticat’s “The Dew Breaker,” about an immigrant family who attends Christmas Eve mass but finds America wasteful, faithless, and full of unlikely coincidence; in David Haynes’ “Your Child can be a Model,” we meet a young black mother on the occasion of her son’s expulsion from school, then follow her as she works to get him out of trouble; John Edgar Wideman, in “Weight,” straddles the line between fiction and nonfiction in a poignant homage to his mother; Tayari Jones contributes a section from her recently published novel, Leaving Atlanta (p. 830), about a series of murders of African-American children in Georgia; and voice rules in J. California Cooper’s “$100 and Nothing!,” a neighbor’s account of a good marriage gone bad.
Much to admire, though feathers may be ruffled (how can “gumbo” be a unifying image for a race that has gone far beyond the cultural reach of it or any other individual thing?). Still, a comprehensive look at middle-brow African-American literature.