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Rotten English: A Literary Anthology

Overview

A global anthology of fiction and poetry in vernacular English.Rotten English spans the globe to offer an overview of the best non-standard English writing of the past two centuries, with a focus on the most recent decades. What would once have been derogatorily termed "dialect literature" has come into its own in a language known variously as slang, creole, patois, pidgin, or, in the words of Nigerian novelist Ken Saro-Wiwa, "rotten English."
The first anthology of its kind, ...

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Overview

A global anthology of fiction and poetry in vernacular English.Rotten English spans the globe to offer an overview of the best non-standard English writing of the past two centuries, with a focus on the most recent decades. What would once have been derogatorily termed "dialect literature" has come into its own in a language known variously as slang, creole, patois, pidgin, or, in the words of Nigerian novelist Ken Saro-Wiwa, "rotten English."
The first anthology of its kind, Rotten English celebrates vernacular literature from around the English-speaking world, from Robert Burns, Mark Twain, and Zora Neale Hurston to Roddy Doyle, Jonathan Safran Foer, and M. NourbeSe Philip. With concise introductions that explain the context and aesthetics of the vernacular tradition, this anthology pays tribute to the changes English has undergone as it has become a global language.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
Rotten English is a remarkable collection of vernacular poetry, prose, essays and novellas that has real and academic importance, and I applaud Ahmad for bringing this debate to a larger public. This book makes us aware of the incredible flexibility of English and charts its journey to become a truly global language....”— Chris Abani
Washington Post
“Roughly a billion people speak English today and, as this anthology demonstrates, they do so in infinite and rich variety.”
London Times
“For anybody who has ever been tutted at… come and have a bath in the wonderful Englishes in this book.”— Ian McMillan
Junot Díaz
“Smart, beautiful, passionate, necessary: Rotten English is as canny as it is exhaustive; an extraordinary X-ray of English, as she is spoken, broken, and loved.”
Chris Abani - Los Angeles Times
“Rotten English is a remarkable collection of vernacular poetry, prose, essays and novellas that has real and academic importance, and I applaud Ahmad for bringing this debate to a larger public. This book makes us aware of the incredible flexibility of English and charts its journey to become a truly global language....”
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
“If we want to preserve the dignity of that strange adjective 'comparative' in comparative literature, we will embrace creolity, and Rotten English will be a required text.”
Ian McMillan - London Times
“For anybody who has ever been tutted at… come and have a bath in the wonderful Englishes in this book.”
School Library Journal

Adult/High School
This collection of vernacular poetry, short stories, novels, and essays poignantly addresses complex issues of language and power. Most of the selections were created in the late 20th or early 21st century, but Ahmad includes pieces that clearly demonstrate the sociopolitical contexts that give birth to, and resulting thematic cohesiveness of, vernacular writing, which has sprouted all over the world. As she describes in her concise introduction, the key characteristic of vernacular writing is its anti-institutional stance. By confronting complex linguistic histories arising from colonialism and peeling through layers specific to mainstream culture (slavery, nationalism, immigration), the authors represented here are able to at once name their own oppressors and reclaim personal authenticity and power. Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldúa illustrates this beautifully when she says that "I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent's tongue-my woman's voice, my sexual voice, my poet's voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence." Perhaps the most powerful point that this collection effectively emphasizes is the fluidity of vernacular writing and its inherent ability to empower both author and readers. By validating "alternative" voices, languages, and experiences, the authors create a space for new perspectives, fresh dialogue, and countless new communities. This, coupled with the approachability of the works presented here, makes the book a natural fit for teens.
—Shannon PetersonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393329605
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/4/2007
  • Pages: 536
  • Sales rank: 709,033
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dohra Ahmad is a professor at St. John's University, where she teaches postcolonial literature. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: "This Is Ma Trooth"     15
"Raal Right Singin'": Vernacular Poetry     33   Louise Bennett     37
"Colonization in Reverse" and "Bans O'Killing"     38   Kamau Brathwaite     42
"Wings of a Dove"     43   Robert Burns     49
"Auld Lang Syne," "Highland Mary," and "Bonnie Lesley"     50   Paul Laurence Dunbar     56
"A Negro Love Song" and "When Malindy Sings"     57   Langston Hughes     61
"Mother to Son" and "Po' Boy Blues"     62   Linton Kwesi Johnson     64
"Inglan Is a Bitch"     65   Paul Keens-Douglas     68
"Wukhand"     69   Rudyard Kipling     73
"Tommy"     74   Tom Leonard     77
"Unrelated Incidents-No. 3"     78   Mary McCabe     80
"Comin Back Ower the Border"     81   Claude McKay     82
"Quashie to Buccra"     83   Mutabaruka     85
"Dis Poem"     86   M. NourbeSe Philip     90
"Questions! Questions!"     91   Ntozake Shange     92
"No more love poems #I"     93
"So Like I Say...": Vernacular Short Stories     97   Charles Chesnutt     101
"Po' Sandy"     102   Junot Diaz     115
"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"     116   Patricia Grace     165
"Letters from Whetu"     166   Zora Neale Hurston     181
"Spunk" and "Story in Harlem Slang"     182   John Kasaipwalova     202
"Betel Nut Is Bad Magic for Airplanes"     203   Earl Lovelace     214
"Joebell and America"     215   Rohinton Mistry     232
"The Ghost of Firozsha Baag"     233   Mark Twain     251
"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and "A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It"     252   Irvine Welsh     266
"A Soft Touch" and "Granny's Old Junk"     267   Thomas Wolfe     282
"Only the Dead Know Brooklyn"     283
"I Wanna Say I Am Somebody": Selections from Vernacular Novels     291   Peter Carey     295
from True History of the Kelly Gang     296   Roddy Doyle     300
from The Snapper     301   Alan Duff     321
from Once Were Warriors     322   Jonathan Safran Foer     325
"An Overture to the Commencement of a Very Rigid Journey," from Everything is Illuminated     326   Uzodinma Iweala     330
from Beasts of No Nation     331   Oonya Kempadoo     339
"Baywatch and de Preacher," from Tide Running     340   R. Zamora Linmark     345
"Face," from Rolling the R's     346   Gautam Malkani     348
from Londonstani     349   Frances Molloy     362
from No Mate for the Magpie     363   Sapphire     377
from Push     378   Ken Saro-Wiwa     390
from Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English I said to myself, " trouble don begin"     391   Sam Selvon     398
from The Housing Lark     399
"A New English": Essays on Vernacular Literature      421   Chinua Achebe     425
from "The African Writer and the English Language"     426   Gloria Anzaldua     436
"How to Tame a Wild Tongue," from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza     437   James Baldwin     452
"If Black English Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?"     453   Kamau Brathwaite     458
from History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry     459   Thomas Macaulay     469
from "Minute on Indian Education"     470   Gabriel Okara     475
"African Speech...English Words"     476   M. NourbeSe Philip     480
"The Absence of Writing or How I Almost Became a Spy"     481   Amy Tan     502
"Mother Tongue"     503
Glossary     511
Suggestions for Further Reading     519
Acknowledgments     529
Credits     531
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