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From the PublisherPoet and journalist Powell (Keepin 'It Real, 1997) is one of the most audible and outspoken advocates of the young black literary voice on the scene today. He has here assembled the essays, fiction, poetry, criticism, and journalism of more than 100 young writers. Although of predictably variable quality, most entries are engaging and provocative, with stand-out work by Malcolm Gladwell ("The Sports Taboo: Why Blacks are Like Boys and Whites are Like Girls"), Daphne Brooks (a critical piece on Oprah's book club), Erin Aubrey (a consideration of Ebonics), Scott Poulson-Bryant (an insightful article on Sean "Puffy" Combs), and the very beautiful and often disturbing fiction of such talents as Junot Diaz, Christopher John Farley, John Keene, Victor D. La Valle, Phylis Alesia Perry, and Bernardine Evaristo. Considering a wide range of subjects (including sexuality, violence, feminism, linguistics, politics, prostitution, music, love, media, and spirituality), these short works are linked only by the racial origins of their authors. Powell's decision to alphabetize entries within categories serves to reiterate this lack of overriding theme and to emphasize the infinite range and flexibility of this, the new world of black writers.
A fascinating collection of work from established authors and bold new voices.
--Kirkus Reviews, November 2000
This anthology of young, contemporary black writers generally maintains a precarious balance between authentic discovery and promotional marketing, although the writing varies widely in quality and relevance (some selections are quite riveting, others just self- absorbed). Divided into six sections- "Essays," "Hip-Hop Journalism," "Criticism," "Fiction," "Poetry," and "Dialogue"- the collection presents a broad range of voices and perspectives, although a majority of them are, not surprisingly, from the United States. While some of the texts, particularly those on hip- hop, seem overly dramatic and hyperbolic, some very fine writing emerges in the "Essays" section. Mostly autobiographical, these selections address the very real contemporary problems of black identity in a post civil Rights era in which the political battle lines have become much more blurred and the issues of self, nation, class, gender, sexuality, and history are immensely complicated. The items in the "Dialogue" section are the most strident and the most inventive and compelling. Even through this book will mainly be used as a classroom textbook, it could be a valuable addition to larger collections and other libraries interested in offering brief introductions to young black writers.
-Roger A. Berger, Everett Community Coll., WA
November 15, 2000