Gospel Choirs: Psalms of Survival in an Alien Land Called Home

Gospel Choirs: Psalms of Survival in an Alien Land Called Home

by Derrick Bell
     
 

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Through parables and essays, Derrick Bell offers an eloquent work of social commentary on the permanence of racism.“Gospel,” says Derrick Bell, “and particularly the gospel choir at its best, echoes the tempos of the soul searching for God’s peace in the midst of a hostile world.”Just like the songs of a gospel choir, the pieces in

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Overview

Through parables and essays, Derrick Bell offers an eloquent work of social commentary on the permanence of racism.“Gospel,” says Derrick Bell, “and particularly the gospel choir at its best, echoes the tempos of the soul searching for God’s peace in the midst of a hostile world.”Just like the songs of a gospel choir, the pieces in this book give voice to the hardships faced by African Americans. Through allegorical stories and fictional encounters, dreams, and dialogues, it presents fresh perspectives on the different issues that concern Blacks, such as the message of The Bell Curve, the Contract with America, the media’s handling of Black men, and corporate greed’s responsibility for today’s rising “White rage” and subsequent “Black blame.” Despite their tough subjects, however, these stories resound with laughter and compassion and a continuing theme of Christian love. Ultimately, like the gospel songs, they offer African Americans hope and direction as they travel the racist world they inhabit.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Can gospel music-emanating from black culture but speaking with a universal optimism-be employed to find solutions to the poverty and racial hostility that constitute black America's "greatest crisis since the end of Reconstruction?" In this innovative collection of essays and parables that include his fictional lawyer Geneva Crenshaw (this is the third of his Geneva Chronicles, after Faces at the Bottom of the Well), legal scholar Bell uses storytelling and gospel music references to attempt new insights. His style sometimes devolves into didactic speechifying or predictable dissing (taking on Rush Limbaugh types), but he makes resonant points. He criticizes what he sees as the spurious logic behind the Contract with America and The Bell Curve. He reminds us of the rich legacy of those, like Paul Robeson, who dissented from black leadership. He imagines himself in a race riot, after which fellow blacks find liberation by reinterpreting the racist slogan "Nigger Free" as symbol rather than curse. Most interesting are his characters' modest proposals for a monitor to tax America's use of "cultural expressions of subordinated peoples of color," and for a shield to ensure nonexploitive sex among black folk. In the end, Bell's somewhat scattershot approach to issues is more metaphorical than practical, but that's why he's chosen this alternative style, and his voice still has wisdom. Author tour. (June)
Library Journal
As controversial as ever, Bell (Confronting Authority, LJ 9/15/94) has written a series of parables using fictional characters to voice his progressive views. He blasts racism, the Republicans' Contract with America, and The Bell Curve; he makes a statement on affirmative action and comments briefly on the October 1995 Million Man March in Washington, D.C. His first story concerns a bizarre tale of aliens he calls "space traders" who have come to Earth to take away all African Americans. The next tale is a debate with a fictitious conservative talk-show host named Biff Rightwing, whose ruthless audience forces Bell to defend himself. In subsequent chapters, he has several conversations with a limo driver named Jesse Semple, who becomes his mentor and speaks candidly on the issues of the day. In the meantime he is watched over constantly by Geneva Crenshaw, who's like his guardian angel. He also touches on relationships between the sexes, giving a boost to black women for their strength, courage, and understanding. Even though careless editing puts a damper on the smooth flow of these essays, the book has merit for African American collections and academics with a sense of humor.-Ann Burns, "Library Journal"

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465024131
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
05/30/1997
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
0.55(w) x 5.00(h) x 8.00(d)

What People are saying about this

Jeremy Waldron
"Even to be disconcerted by Mr. Bell's technique is to open oneself to the challenge of his thesis and the soaring power of the music that sustains it."

Meet the Author

Derrick Bell, a visiting professor at New York University Law School, was dismissed by Harvard University from his position as Weld Professor of Law for refusing to end his two-year leave through which he protested the absence of minority women on the law faculty. He is also the author of Faces at the Bottom of the Well, Confronting Authority, and And We Are Not Saved.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
November 6, 1930
Place of Birth:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Education:
A.B., Duquesne University, 1952; L.L.B., University of Pittsburgh Law School, 1957
Website:
http://www.law.nyu.edu/faculty/profiles/fulltime/belld.html

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