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Black-Jewish Walter Mosley

February 15, 2011 in African American Literature, American literature, Black Literature, Mystery Writers

Walter Mosley / Photo by David Shankbone, CC LicenseHe’s the guy wearing the fedora.  He’s the guy who looks black, but actually comes from an extensive history of Jewish Eastern Europeans.  He’s also the guy who explores American black culture in his mystery series with star detective Easy Rawlins.

Of course, we’re talking about none other than Walter Mosley.  In continuing with Black History Month, we’re honoring Mr. Mosley by celebrating his multicultural roots.  Not many writers, let alone people, can talk about what it’s like to grow up both black and Jewish, but Mosley can.  He embraces both cultures in his writing, including when Easy Rawlins spies on a Polish-Jewish communist in A Red Death.

Interestingly enough, Mosley grew up in notorious Watts, California–a city known for its violent and explosive racial tensions.  Somehow the writer sidestepped all the negativity and turbulence and let his imagination run free as a child.  Fortunately for 12 year-old Mosley and his parents, they moved to an affluent Los Angeles suburb in 1964 … only a year before the horror of the Watts riots.

Today, he is a man of great importance, not only in the writing world, but he is also known for his literary editing skills as well.  For a man who started writing late in life–at 34 years of age–he’s become a favorite of President Bill Clinton and Denzel Washington has played Easy Rawlins in the movie adaptation of Devil in a Blue Dress.

Therefore, we celebrate Walter Mosley and all his accomplishments, proving that being both black and Jewish is a beautiful thing.

Please enjoy The “Easy” Yet Complex Writing of Walter Mosley, A Black Jewish Author.

Touring Harlem with Literary Traveler

February 11, 2011 in African American Literature, American literature, Black Literature, Travel to New York City

Louis Armstrong / Library of CongressHarlem is a place that is so closely imbued in the hearts of Americans everywhere.  Even tourists from around the world come to see the streets of Harlem, a once Mecca to the black artist, including the black writer.  What arose from the Harlem Renaissance was a beautiful, literary tradition of African American stories, storytelling and history.  Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Nella Larsen, Carl Van Vechten, Countee Cullen, Louis Armstrong, Zora Neale Hurston … these are the names of the Harlem Renaissance.

Can you imagine going into a club in Harlem in the 1920s-30s and seeing Louis Armstrong blow on his trumpet or Langston Hughes reading his poem “Harlem” a.k.a. “A Dream Deferred”?  This era was magical, never to be repeated as of today, sadly enough.  But the magic still resounds in the streets of Harlem.  The people there haven’t forgotten where they come from.  Even though there are now more white people living in Harlem than black.  Even though Harlem has pretty much underwent gentrification.

The memory of the Harlem Renaissance exists.  You can find it on amateur night at the Apollo Theater, in the spirit of the Harlem Globetrotters (originating in 1926) and the smooth jazz and blues songs of Black Swan Records.  I hope to find it myself in a couple weeks as I head to Harlem to eat at Sylvia’s, a historic restaurant owned and run by Sylvia Woods, the “Queen of Soul Food,” since 1962.  Everyone who is someone has eaten there, including President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Susan Lucci, Magic Johnson and many more.

So explore Harlem with us with these two articles that give you the grand tour of a place imbued with literary spirit and black pride.

A New Kind of Renaissance: Touring Harlem

The Studio Museum in Harlem Presents Africa Comics

Nella Larsen's Identity Crisis

February 9, 2011 in African American Literature, American literature, Black Literature

Nella Larsen in 1928 / Photo by James Allen As a black woman who was coming of age in the early part of the 20th century, it was hard for Nella Larsen to understand where she fit.  Her mother was of Danish descent, a white woman, and her biological father was of West Indian descent.  If you think about Larsen’s unusual background, you realize how difficult it must have been for Larsen to be of mixed race in the early 20th century.

To compound her identity crisis even more, Larsen’s mother could not deal with raising an obviously black daughter.  Sadly, she separated herself from Nella for most of Nella’s life.  Somehow through the pain and tragedy, and even a very personal identity crisis, Nella Larsen flourished into one of the great Harlem Renaissance writers with her book Passing.

In Passing, Larsen shapes the psyche and identity of the black female.  She was one of the first to do so, thus giving readers today a historical insight into the black female of the early 20th century and Harlem Renaissance.

To read more about Nella Larsen’s fascinating life and identity issues, take a look at Discovering Parallels to Nella Larsen.

Langston Hughes in Harlem

February 8, 2011 in African American Literature, American literature, Black Literature, Literary Traveler Poetry

Langston Hughes Washington DC Residence / Photo by APK, WikipediaWho embodies the Harlem Renaissance more than any other writer?  Langston Hughes, of course.  This black poet created not only inspirational poetry, but poetry that is cool. Langston’s poem “Harlem” (more popularly known as “A Dream Deferred”) has been made into a Broadway stage play and a feature film.  Both adaptions have starred major black entertainers such as Phylicia Rashad, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Sanaa Lathan and Audra McDonald, thus carrying on the Harlem Renaissance tradition.

The poem “Harlem” continues to inspire a whole new generation of Americans with its jazzy rhythm and lyrical beats.  Perhaps this is arguably one of the most famous lines in American poetry to date:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?

The Harlem Renaissance continues to live on at Literary Traveler with our three articles featuring the great poet, Langston Hughes.  We have Hughes in Harlem, Hughes in Washington D.C. and even Hughes in Turkmenistan … with a surprise ending?!

Celebrate Black History with LT.  Happy Reading to all …

A New Kind of Renaissance: Touring Harlem

The Harlem Renaissance, Washington DC And The Rise of Langston Hughes

From Turkmenistan to America: How I Found Langston Hughes

Faith Ringgold on the Rooftops of Harlem

February 4, 2011 in African American Literature, Black Literature, children's literature

Faith Ringgold Tar Beach, Public DomainBlack History Month continues with Faith Ringgold, renown artist and author of the children’s classic Tar Beach.  Ringgold grew up in the Depression era in Harlem in the 1930s. As a young girl, she saw the injustices of money and race firsthand during the latter years of the Harlem Renaissance.

Ringgold not only created beautiful art from her experiences, but she decided to take a chance and write Tar Beach.  This book centers on little Cassie Lightfoot, a black girl protagonist.  She uses the rooftop of her Harlem apartment building (her “tar beach”) as a launch pad to fly all over Harlem, especially to segregated areas, which Cassie, as a black girl, would not have been allowed.

Tar Beach gives permission for black children, and all children for that matter, to dream and dream big.  That’s the beauty of Cassie’s story: she’s a dreamer and she can accomplish things others could never even fathom.  So take a trip down memory lane with us and think back to the time when you were a dreamer with our article entitled Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach, A Literary Review.

And please note, this is just the start of our Harlem articles.  Next week will be entirely dedicated to the Harlem Renaissance on LT.net!  So stay tuned …

Kick off Black History Month w/ Zora Neale Hurston

February 3, 2011 in African American Literature, American literature, Classic Writers, Southern Writers

Photo by Carl Van Vechten. Silver geletin print, 1938Black History Month is finally here.  And we’re celebrating it by highlighting all of our articles about African American writers.  We’ll also be throwing in a couple Caribbean writers and an article on Ghana, so stay tuned!

We’d like to start off Black History Month 2011 with a powerful, black writer by the name of Zora Neale Hurston.  Hurston was not only a staple in the Harlem Renaissance, but she can also be classified as a Southern writer as she spent much of her life in Eatonville, Florida.  The town honors her legacy each year by hosting the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in January.  Festival-goers celebrate her work and life as well as focus on a specific theme that varies from year to year.

Hurston is the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, a classic in American literature.  We honor Hurston with our two articles entitled Zora Neale Hurston, A Literary Life and Zora’s Immortal South.

So kick off Black History Month with these two engaging articles on Hurston.  We promise you, there will be more to come …

Black (Literary) History Month 2011

January 18, 2011 in African American Literature, American literature, Literary News

Ways of White Folks, Langston Hughes, Photo in Public DomainWe’re proud to celebrate Black History Month in February 2011.  As an American-based magazine, we celebrate along with the rest of the country.  Since our publication focuses on the literary, we decided a long time ago to extend the usual canon of dead white men to include all those who made literary contributions to our country.  Thus, in preparation for Black History Month in two weeks, we’d like to take a minute to reflect on our articles that highlight the black literary canon and black history.

When I take submissions, I look for articles with unique perspectives and ideas, and the following article precisely hit the mark.  From Turkmenistan to America: How I Found Langston Hughes by Sam Tranum describes how Hughes not only lit up the US, but also excited a classroom full of students learning English in Turkmenistan.  And there’s a surprise ending I never saw coming.

We also have two articles entitled A New Kind of Renaissance: Touring Harlem and The Studio Museum in Harlem Presents Africa Comics. Both articles focus on the second “renaissance” of Harlem today and how black history still resonates through the streets in the northern part of Manhattan.

Literary Traveler also extends the African experience to other parts of the world with our articles on legendary black writers and African folktales.  Check out The Oral Literary Tradition of Ghana: Folklore & Proverbs by Hannah May, who visits Ghana to discover her literary roots.

So take this icy and extremely cold day to explore black literary history.  We wish all of our literary travelers a reflective and introspective Black History Month for February 2011.

~ Jennifer

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