Harlem is Nowhere (Hardcover)
A Journey to the Mecca of Black America
Little, Brown and Company, 9780316017237, 304pp.
Publication Date: January 26, 2011
Other Editions of This Title:
Rhodes-Pitts is a brilliant new voice who, like other significant chroniclers of places -- Joan Didion on California, or Jamaica Kincaid on Antigua -- captures the very essence of her subject.
A finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
"No geographic or racial qualification guarantees a writer her subject . . . Only interest, knowledge, and love will do that -- all of which this book displays in abundance." -- Zadie Smith, Harper's
About the Author
Praise For Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America…
"Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts has written a very striking meditation on Harlem as a place and a symbol, and at a time when Harlem is changing profoundly. She is a brilliant addition to the literature on Harlem that reaches back to James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison, to Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. But hers is most definitely a fresh, new voice. There is a certain graceful cool, an unfailing aptness of tone, in her writing. Harlem Is Nowhere tells you things that you didn't know you didn't know about Harlem."—Darryl Pinckney, author of Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature, and High Cotton, winner of the
"In this beautiful and inventive book, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts finds--in a stray photograph, the corridors of a library, a wax museum, or a sidewalk chalk tract--pathways that lead us through and around another Harlem, interior to the ones we have known, and unforgettable. Written in the visionary documentary tradition of James Agee, Walter Benjamin, and Ralph Ellison, Harlem Is Nowhere is a work of great imagination and quiet splendor."—Rachel Cohen, author of A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists (winner
"A tender historical memoir....Throughout her studious love letter to her adopted home, Rhodes-Pitts is singing the Harlem Blues."—Sean Carman, The Rumpus
"Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts's enlightening Harlem Is Nowhere takes a new approach in her look at the venerable community. Rather than crafting a detached, straightforward account, Rhodes-Pitts makes it personal...An inspiration memoir."—Ron Wynn, BookPage
"As a teenager in Texas, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts was 'quite fascinated' with Harlem. Channeling this passion...she published Harlem Is Nowhere, an urban history and meditation on the legendary neighbourhood."—Vogue
"Harlem Is Nowhere is a tender, improvisational memoir of several years spent exploring the myths of this capital of African America and the realities of its 21st-century incarnation....It is a pilgrimage, a celebration and a cautionary note. It also heralds the arrival of a writer whose voice fits right in with the literary forebears she reveres."—Jane Ciabattari, NPR.com
"Any neighborhood worthy of the name is a kind of shared dream, and no neighborhood in America better illustrates this principle than Harlem....it also has Rhodes-Pitts to account for its dream life, for what almost happened there but didn't and for what did happen but is only half-remembered, for what its people longed for and never got and for what they loved but could not hold onto....Rhodes-Pitts is one of that rare breed of writer who, on the strength of her hypnotic voice and idiosyncratic thinking, can turn every sentence into a crooked finger, impossible to resist....She is almost always willing to stop and listen and take notes before it's all gone forever....In a way Harlem Is Nowhere is a ghost story, whispering to the world that the Harlem of its dreams is going, going, gone and the Harlem that's now here (as opposed to 'nowhere') will likely soon follow. Catch it while you can."—Laura Miller, Salon
"Harlem, once walled off by geography, then closed again by the dark will of the country, opens like a light to take its proper place at the center of the American spirit. Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts...has given us a guidebook for this kind of remembrance. Her book is not so much a history of Harlem as a kind of memoir of history. In its account of one person's ascent up the imposing hill of centuries of Harlem's stories, we have an example of how to read ourselves into the neighborhood, of how to think and how to believe when we rise out of the 125th Street Station and into the bright heart of Black America."—David Kennedy Jones, The New York Times
"Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts's new book resists easy classification: It's part literary walking tour, part urban history, part memoir, and all beautiful prose....As Ralph Ellison, from whose 1948 essay Rhodes-Pitts borrows her book's title, wrote in Invisible Man: 'This really was Harlem, and now all the stories which I had heard of the city-within-a-city leaped alive in my mind...This was not a city of realities but of dreams.' Reading Harlem Is Nowhere, we're also watching Rhodes-Pitts chase this dream, and it's impossible to look away."—Laura Moser, "Double X," Slate
"Harlem Is Nowhere...is a dazzling series of linked essays on Harlem as the living embodiment of...a place and time that might somehow mend the fractured history of African Americans and make it whole....Rhodes-Pitts honors the dreamers imagining what Harlem could be, while never losing sight of how each of them was thwarted by the disconnect between the heaven they envisioned and the reality they lived....We meet political agitators of all stripes, all of whom she treats with respect....It is her ability to not only see Harlem on its own terms but also grasp why Harlem matters that makes this book so exceptional....[Rhodes-Pitts has] the sharp eye of a reporter in prose, reminiscent of Joan Didion, that manages to be both remarkably cool and distinctly elegiac....She is walking toward a destination she has sought from the beginning--brave enough to seek it, and honest enough to tell us that she may never arrive."—Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"For the book's author, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem is a notional place, an idea threatened by a reality, existing most concretely in the minds of those who have loved and defended it. Rhodes-Pitts is one such, and her account of this stretch of land that may or may not begin at 110th Street and end at 168th is fittingly idiosyncratic, as much meditation as history....Like [Virginia] Woolf, Rhodes-Pitts is bookish and devoted, interested in everyday matters: how people walk and talk, dress, go about their day....Here individual experience is honored, and judgment reserved....this is a lovely book about the romance--and dangers--of bibliophily....No geographic or racial qualification guarantees a writer her subject....Only interest, knowledge, and love will do that--all of which this book displays in abundance."—Zadie Smith, Harper's