Five Novels of the 1920s
Library of America, Hardcover, 9781598530995, 800pp.
Publication Date: September 1, 2011
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HARLEM RENAISSANCE: Five Novels of the 1920s leads off with Jean Toomer's "Cane" (1923), a unique fusion of fiction, poetry, and drama rooted in Toomer's experiences as a teacher in Georgia. Toomer's masterpiece was followed within a few years by a cluster of novels exploring black experience and the dilemmas of black identity in a variety of modes and from different angles. Claude McKay's "Home to Harlem" (1928), whose freewheeling, impressionistic, bawdy kaleidoscope of Jazz Age nightlife made it a best seller, traces the picaresque adventures of Jake, a World War I veteran, within and beyond Harlem. Nella Larsen's "Quicksand" (1928), the poignant, nuanced psychological portrait of a woman caught between the two worlds of her mixed Scandinavian and African American heritage; Jessie Redmon Fauset's "Plum Bun" (1928), the richly detailed account of a young art student's struggles to advance her career in a society full of obstacles both overt and insidiously concealed; and Wallace Thurman's "The Blacker the Berry" (1929), with its anguished, provocative look at prejudice and exclusion as it tells of a new arrival in Harlem searching for love, each in its distinct way testifies to the enduring power of the Harlem ferment.
About the Author
Rafia Zafar is Professor of English and African and African American Studies, Washington Univerisity in St. Louis.