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Celebrating African Writers Too

February 17, 2011 in African Literature, Black Literature, travel to Africa

J.M. Coetzee in Cape Town / Photo by Frank van den BerghOf course, this is Black History Month at LT, and we’ve been honoring African American writers.  But we’d like to change it up a bit and honor a literary tradition and writer that come from the exquisite continent of Africa.  Since we live in a global world, we’ve all seen documentaries on Africa–the heartache mixed with hope.  The vivid costumes, face paint and body piercings of tribal life.  The trendy fashion industry, the extravagant safaris, the golden pyramids …

We’d like you to explore two countries with us in particular: Ghana and South Africa.  Writer Hannah May travels to Ghana to attend the wedding of a close friend.  Once there, she discovers she has fallen in love with the people and the culture, and especially the folklore and oral literary tradition, of Ghana.  May says:

When I left Africa, I was speechless. Several tears spoke for me. I had only spent just shy of a month on the continent, but it was an extraordinarily defining experience that both affirmed and reformed me.

Join May on her journey in The Oral Literary Tradition of Ghana: Folklore & Proverbs.

As for South Africa, J.M. Coetzee, a white Afrikaner, writes about the turmoil and racial divide in his native Cape Town.  It is a country marred by the scars of prejudice and hatred.  Writer Nicholas J. Klenske discusses how Coetzee dissects the violent rift between the black South African and the white Afrikaner in his literature.  Klenske says:

Perhaps like no other post-apartheid novel, Disgrace introduces the reader to a new Cape Town and South Africa – one that finds itself engulfed in a different type of violence and conflict. Instead of the perfection many hoped to see after the fall of apartheid, in Disgrace all races, individuals and even Cape Town itself find themselves feeling disgraced.

A brave South African, Coetzee searches the darkness to find the light.  He examines every part of apartheid–before, during and after.  And he recognizes that his country is still healing.  To read more, take a look at J.M. Coetzee’s Warring Cape Town.

Mark Twain & Black Slavery in Hannibal, MO

February 16, 2011 in American literature, Black Literature, Huckleberry Finn, mark twain

Terrell Dempsey, Mark Twain Expert / Courtesy of T. DempseyThere’s a part of black history that no one likes to talk about; however, without this history we would not have insightful literary black voices, narratives and stories passed down from generation to generation.  We’re talking about that dark time in American history known as slavery.

Blighting our past is an era when blacks were sold into slavery, some dying by the whip or torture of their slave master, some living in hell their entire lives and some escaping to freedom, only to find more prejudice and racial divide in the North.  In honor of Black History Month, we acknowledge those who rose out of fear and darkness to write about this most turbulent time.  There was one writer in particular who gave the first black character in literature a soul.  And the writer was not black.  He was Mark Twain.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Terrell Dempsey, a writer who did what no one else had–he delved into the history of black slavery in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri.  This was unprecedented and a monumental task.  Dempsey’s findings were incredulous, including that Twain’s family kept slaves, but Twain himself had a transformation and resented slavery and all it stood for.

Every time I read Dempsey’s interview and article, I’m fascinated by the shocking facts and extent of black slavery in Twain’s Hannibal.  So please, join us in American history by reading A Revealing Interview with Terrell Dempsey and Finding Mark Twain’s Hannibal.  As a bonus, join our publisher, Francis McGovern, on the Mississippi River on the historic Delta Queen steamboat, which included a stop in Hannibal.

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.

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

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 …

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