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In Faithful Vision, James W. Coleman places under his critical lens a wide array of African American novels written during the last half of the twentieth century. In doing so, he demonstrates that religious vision not only informs black literature but also serves as a foundation for black culture generally.
The Judeo-Christian tradition, according to Coleman, is the primary component of the African American spiritual perspective, though its syncretism with voodoo/hoodoo -- a religion transported from West Africa through the West Indies and New Orleans to the rest of black America -- also figures largely. Reviewing novels written mainly since 1950 by writers including James Baldwin, Randall Kenan, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Erna Brodber, and Ishmael Reed, among others, Coleman explores how black authors have addressed the relevance of faith, especially as it relates to an oppressive Christian tradition. He shows that their novels -- no matter how critical of the sacred or supernatural, or how skeptical the characters' viewpoints -- ultimately never reject the vision of faith.
Black novelists, Coleman concludes, stay connected in many ways to the culture that they write about. Faith, a source of strength historically for the black community, remains a powerful influence on black literature, as seen in the content, structure, ideology, and themes of twentieth-century African American novels. With its focus on religious experience and tradition and its wider discussion of history, philosophy, gender, and postmodernism, Faithful Vision brings a bold critical dimension to African American literary studies.