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Colored People

Colored People

4.2 5
by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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In a coming-of-age story as enchantingly vivid and ribald as anything Mark Twain or Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., recounts his childhood in the mill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s and ushers readers into a gossip, of lye-and-mashed-potato “processes,” and of slyly stubborn resistance to the indignities of segregation.


In a coming-of-age story as enchantingly vivid and ribald as anything Mark Twain or Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., recounts his childhood in the mill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s and ushers readers into a gossip, of lye-and-mashed-potato “processes,” and of slyly stubborn resistance to the indignities of segregation.
A winner of the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Award and the Lillian Smith Prize, Colored People is a pungent and poignant masterpiece of recollection, a work that extends and deepens our sense of African American history even as it entrances us with its bravura storytelling

Editorial Reviews

Noted scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., currently head of the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard, offers a memoir of his childhood and youth in the 1950s and '60s.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The two preeminent black American scholars address the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois and community service in a series of brief essays. (Jan.)
Library Journal
The man touted as America's most celebrated black scholar reminisces to his daughters about his boyhood in the polluted, dying Allegheny Mountains' papermill town of Piedmont, West Virginia. Laying out the social and emotional topography of a world shifting from segregation to integration and from colored to Negro to black, Gates evokes a bygone time and place as he moves from his birth in 1949 to 1969, when he goes off to Yale University after a year at West Virginia's Potomac State College. His pensive and sometimes wistful narrative brims with the mysteries and pangs and lifelong aches of growing up, from his encounters with sexuality, to the discovery of intellectual exhilaration as he is marked to excel in school, to his suffering a crippling injury to one of his legs and struggling frightfully for his father's respect. There is much to recommend this book as a story of boyhood, family, segregation, the pre-Civil Rights era, and the era when Civil Rights filtered down from television to local reality. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/94.]-Thomas J. Davis, SUNY at Buffalo
Brad Hooper
A remembrance of childhood and youth in the 1950s and 1960s that is almost elegiac in its soft tone. Gates is a noted scholar who's currently head of the African American Studies Department at Harvard; he was born and raised in the little community of Piedmont, West Virginia. It's a place of physical beauty--and, obviously, from his eloquent words, a place where, despite the separateness its black citizens felt, there existed a "sort of segregated peace." Without anger, Gates explains that, as he grew into an awareness of sexuality and religion, he was also aware of a color line in Piedmont. Gates nonetheless imparts a definite sense that he enjoyed a reasonable degree of comfort and security as he passed from child to young adult. The civil rights movement came slowly to Piedmont, mostly by way of television pictures of strife and reaction taking place elsewhere. The town no longer exists as it did, but Gates' ease with himself is due to a large extent to how the town was back then. His is an important document--to say nothing of a beautiful work of prose--in the literature of growing up. Hand his book to any reader keen on autobiography.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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2 MB

Meet the Author

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. The author of numerous books, including the widely acclaimed memoir Colored People, Professor Gates has also edited several anthologies and is coeditor with Kwame Anthony Appiah of Encarta Africana, an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora. An influential cultural critic, he is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and other publications and is the recipient of many honors, including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the National Humanities Medal.

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Colored People 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
OhioUniversityLancaster More than 1 year ago
Gates weaves the tale of his childhood growing up in Piedmont, West Virginia during the 1950’s and 60’s a tumultuous time in American history. This coming of age story is framed beautifully with Gates’ simple prose and interesting story telling techniques. You really get to know the people in his life. Although we that is the author and myself, are a decade apart and I am a white woman who grew up in the 1970’s in Southeastern, Ohio our lives weren’t that much different in a lot of ways. There just aren’t that many differences growing in poverty no matter you skin color. The Gates perhaps unbeknownst to him did differ that much from his white counterparts in impoverished lands of West Virginia and Southeast, Ohio. We suffered and they suffered from a dying homeland with little opportunity, Gates got out. The Second half of the book loses my attention and admittedly had a hard time finishing it. I still recommend the book the POV of Gates is wonderful and deserves a look. Quick read for the most part.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RROD3 More than 1 year ago
Book Review: Colored People Recently for my English class I read the novel Colored People by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I am 16 years old and I am a junior at Holt High School. I was just trying to find some book for silent reading when my English teacher suggested that I read this book. At first I was skeptical that it would be something I would be interested in, but as I read on I really enjoyed the book. Basically it is a memoir of his life from a child to a young adult, also with fast forwards to his present day life. It shows the struggles and triumphs that young black Americans had during the 1960s, 70s, and on. In his adolescent age he likes a girl, and as they grow older they see that they cannot be together because the society won't let them be together, he's black and she's white. The main characters are Henry, Mama, and Daddy. The memoir also includes many of Gates family members; uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. I recommend this book for a mature audience, as many young peoples/children wouldn't be interested enough to enjoy it. This is a very sophisticated book that is based on real life events. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. It was definitely the best book of this year that I have read, and most likely in the last couple of years also.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
Not as interesting as I anticipated. It had the same problems that "Snow in Havana" had. The author interjected adult rationale and logic onto childhood experiences. The teenage years were much more interesting because they seemed more real and natural. There wasn't the arrogance of an adult point of view once he started writing about his teenage years.