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Masterpieces of African-American Literature


A unique and vital guide that summarizes, explains and evaluates the greatest works of African-American literature ? including articles on writings from James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Toni Morrison and many more.

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A unique and vital guide that summarizes, explains and evaluates the greatest works of African-American literature — including articles on writings from James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Toni Morrison and many more.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This newest work by prolific editor Magill includes articles on 149 titles in African American literature from various genres. Some 91 authors are represented, 37 of whom are women. Entries, which are generally well written and informative, include sections on the principal characters, plot, analysis, and the critical context. Descriptions of the standard works, including a number of young adult titles, are presented. There are also several lesser-known works (e.g., Raymond Andrew's Appalachee Red, Barry Beckham's Runner Mack, and William Demby's Beetlecreek ) . The inclusion of some nonliterary titles (e.g., Shelby Steele's The Content of Our Character and Orlando Patterson's Slavery and Social Death ) could be questioned, especially when important writers such as Margaret Walker and John Oliver Killens have been excluded. Nevertheless, this is an essential purchase that provides material not always easily available elsewhere.-- Louis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn Campus
This companion volume to Masterpieces of World Literature (1989) highlights the literary achievements of African-American authors from the 18th century to the present with individual articles on 149 major works of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. Each article contains the important facts and dates of authorship along with analyses of characters, settings, themes, and plots. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Zom Zoms
About 150 works of literature by more than 90 African American authors are described in this new work, a companion to "Masterpieces of World Literature". Coverage ranges more than 200 years, including both early literature, such as "Our Nig" by Harriet Jacob and "Clotel" by William Wells Brown, and such contemporary works as "Mama" by best-selling novelist Terry McMillan, Shelby Steele's controversial "The Content of Our Character", and Charles Johnson's "Middle Passage", winner of the 1990 National Book Award. In addition to novels, the volume discusses autobiographies, poetry, plays, essays, speeches, and short stories Arranged alphabetically by title, each entry follows a standard format. For a work of fiction or drama, an entry begins with brief ready-reference information giving author's name and dates, type of work, type of plot, time of plot, locale, and date of first publication. This information is followed by a description of the principal characters, a summary of the plot, some critical analysis, and a concluding section called "Critical Context." Nonfiction receives similar treatment, except that the ready-reference summaries introducing each entry are briefer, and the sections on literary characters are omitted. For autobiographical treatments, there are short descriptions of the principal personages that figure in the work. In some cases, works are grouped together by literary genre instead of being discussed individually by title. Thus, there are the essays for "The Poetry of Ai," "The Poetry of Amiri Baraka," and "The Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr." In all, 30 authors and their works are presented this way. Entries average 2,500 words in length and--as one has come to expect from a Frank N. Magill production--are written in a clear and accessible style. Each entry is signed. No affiliations are provided in the list of contributors that follows the brief preface. The volume concludes with author and title indexes There is no shortage of information about most of the authors discussed here. Many of them can be found in volumes of Gale's "Dictionary of Literary Biography", such as "Afro-American Writers before the Harlem Renaissance" and "Afro-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940". The "DLB" covers more writers and provides more information about their lives and careers. Information about newer writers can be found in Gale's "Black Writers", a spin-off of "Contemporary Authors". Many of the writers are also discussed in various other sets edited by Magill, including the Critical Survey and Masterplots series. A number of the titles analyzed in "Masterpieces of African-American Literature" are also included in one or another Masterplots set. However, the volume under review adds a number of titles, especially newer ones, not found elsewhere and also offers the advantage of a convenient format. It is extremely useful to have these works presented in a single volume. Libraries that need information on African American literature but cannot afford to invest heavily in the large sets from Salem Press or Gale will welcome this volume. Even those libraries that do own the larger sets will want to consider this volume as a convenient, accessible way to help support a multicultural curriculum. Recommended for high school, public, and undergraduate libraries.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062700667
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/18/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 7.65 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Frank N. Magill has been a writer and editor of distinguished reference works for the past forty years. John K. Roth is Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. In 1988, he was named Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

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