Campbell analyzes fourteen literary words written over more than a century, from William Wells Brown's 'Clotel' (1853) to David Bradley's 'The Chaneysville Incident' (1981). She shows that this fiction celebrates blacks' efforts to preserve their humanity and also permits black authors to act as revisionist historians, offering a transcendent view of the future through an exploration of the past.
Campbell's survey of black American historical fiction hypothesizes that black writers had to create a mythology to portray, in Darwin T. Turner's words, ``a transcendental vision of what might be.'' By invoking the power of myth, the black artist could reach readers at the deepest level, helping them rediscover Afro-American archetypes destroyed by racism. Each chapter deals thematically and chronologically with two novels, beginning with William Wells Brown's Clotel (1853) and Arna Bontemps's Black Thunder (1936) and culminating with Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon and David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident. While clearly written and cogently argued, Campbell's survey will appeal mostly to scholars because of its scope and sophistication. Janet Boyarin Blundell, M.L.S., Brookdale Community Coll., Lincroft, N.J.