Cane is Jean Toomer's acclaimed exploration of the American racial temperament of the 1920s. Using his own life as a model, Toomer explores the issues of race and identity that simmer just below the fragile American social veneer. Organized in three sections, these stories and vignettes are also interspersed with poetry. Toomer's brilliant interweaving of black folk culture within themes of miscegenation, black sexuality, and racial identity and conflict turned this novel into a literary high point.
Toomer's book represented and served to introduce the now self-aware and emergent "new" Negro. In fact, the author himself was embraced by the white literary avant-garde as a modernist of the first order. While initially a commercial failure, Cane is now considered a twentieth-century masterpiece.
“By far the most impressive product of the Negro Renaissance, Cane ranks with Richard Wright's Native Son and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man as a measure of the Negro novelist's highest achievement. Jean Toomer belongs to that first rank of writers who use words almost as a plastic medium, shaping new meanings from an original and highly personal style.”