The Oxford Companion to African American Literature
Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 1997
In his foreword, Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes, "The publication of The Oxford Companion to African American Literature within months of the appearance of The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (1996) and The Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History (1996) makes this a signal moment in the history of the discipline of African American Studies." The publication of this Oxford Companion means that the field has matured as an academic discipline to the point that its literary canon can be defined. Edited by literature professors from the University of North Carolina and Emory University, it has more than 300 contributors, including Molefi Asante from Temple University and Arnold Rampersad from Princeton. The format of entries is similar to other titles in the series, with bibliographies concluding each entry. The largest number of entries are devoted to 400 authors, ranging from Phillis Wheatley and Charles Chesnutt to Walter Mosley and Gwendolyn Brooks. Though some of them are covered in other Oxford Companions, all the entries here are new. There are also entries for African Americans, such as Richard Allen and Marian Anderson, known for their influence on black culture, although their acheivements are in fields other than literature. Entries for 150 specific books provide plot summaries. Specific characters and character types (e.g., barbers) are covered, as are African American magazines and newspapers, publishers, libraries, and literary clubs. Influences on African American literature, such as the Bible, the civil rights movement, the plantation tradition, and music, are discussed, and there are entries on black contributions to genres such as crime and mystery writing and speculative fiction. The lengthiest articles cover broad topics such as Afrocentricity, Black Aesthetic, Children's and Young Adult Literature, Criticism, Film, Folklore, and Stereotypes. The book is extensively cross-referenced and will be indexed.Continuing in a distinguished tradition of reference publishing, this latest Oxford Companion is an important purchase for all libraries, high school and up. ((Reviewed February 15, 1997)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews
LJ Reviews 1997 April
The focus of previous reference works on African American literature has been narrow: the Harlem Renaissance, biography, women writers, etc. Editor Andrews (Classic Fiction of the Harlem Renaissance, LJ 4/1/94) here provides an Oxford companion that covers virtually all "the writers and writings that have made African American literature valuable and distinctive." There are many essays on such topics and genres as television and the novel; a 15-page overview of the whole of African American literary history; some 400 biographical entries, including figures such as Jackie Robinson, whose literary influence has been significant; digests of hundreds of novels, poems, and essays; and sketches of fictional characters, character types ("Uncle Tom"), and occupations. The signed, well-written, and authoritative entries include helpful bibliographies and extensive cross references. A vital reference tool for both general readers and scholars, this outstanding book belongs in every academic, public, and school library. (Index not seen.)?Peter A. Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., Mich. Copyright 1997 Cahners Business Information.