Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remusby Walter M. Brasch
Joel Chandler Harris was widely praised by his contemporaries for his writing and insights into black American folklore and language. His works were translated into more than thirty languages, and he was second only to Mark Twain in popularity with the American public. This book explores Harris's four-decade newspaper and literary career which remained a key part of his life and character even after he achieved critical and financial success in literature.
Harris is not widely known today. Like Brer Rabbit getting stuck in the tar baby, by the 1950s Uncle Remus stories were politicized and often stuck with racist labels, partly because of the depiction of Uncle Remus in Disney's 1946 movie Song of the South and partly because of the movie's extensive use of American Black English.
Brasch defends the accuracy of Harris's literary depiction of both American Black English and Reconstruction Georgia. Brasch also examines the nature of fame and places a variety of other social and political issues in the context of this major American writer.
Walter M. Brasch is an award-winning newspaper reporter and syndicated columnist who now serves as Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at Bloomsburg University. He is the author of ten previous books, including With Just Cause: The Unionization of the American Journalist and Forerunners of Revolution: Muckrakers and the American Social Conscience.
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I really didn't know much about this man, but I had read a couple of newspaper reviews, so decided to buy the book. This is one of the most enlightening and enjoyable books I have read in quite some time. It looks not just at the life of what was one of America's most famous and respected authors in the late 19th century, but also issues about America, including its racial policies. I especially liked reading about why Harris was branded a racist, which he wasn't, and why we have 'forgotten' his name, while remembering the lessons of Brer Rabbit. I also learned that the stories Mr. Harris told were almost entirely based upon African folklore, and we can better understand Afro-American heritage by understanding the allegories of the folktales. I can't recommend this book enough.