Black & African American Studies


The Book of Training by Colonel Hap Thompson of Roanoke, VA, 1843, Annotated from the Library of John C. Calhoun (2019)
Black & African American Studies. Experimental Poetry. Satire.

Percival Everett’s The Book of Training by Colonel Hap Thompson of Roanoke, VA, 1843, Annotated From the Library of John C. Calhoun, is poetry within the harsh confines of a mock historical document, a guidebook for the American slave owner. The collection features lists of instructions for buying, training, and punishing, equations for calculating present and future profits, and handwritten annotations affirming the brutal contents. The Book of Training lays bare the mechanics of the peculiar institution of slavery and challenges readers to place themselves in the uncomfortable vantage point of those who have bought and enslaved human beings. . . . read more

Confessions of a Barefaced Woman (2018)
Black & African American Studies. Poetry.

The poems in Allison Joseph’s latest collection are smart, shameless, and empowered confessions of the best kind. In semi-autobiographical verse highlighting in turns light-hearted and harsh realities of modern black womanhood, these poems take the reader down “A History of African-American Hair,” visit with both Grace Jones and the Venus de Milo, send Janis Joplin to cheerleading camp, bemoan a treacherous first pair of high heels, and discuss “vagina business.” Funny, but never flippant, and always forthcoming about the author’s own flaws and foibles, Confessions of a Barefaced Woman is sure to keep readers entranced, entertained, and enlightened . . . read more

Tea by the Sea (2020)
Black & African American Studies. Fiction.

A baby taken from her mother at birth, an Episcopal priest with a daughter whose face he cannot bear to see, a mother weary of searching for her lost child: Tea by the Sea is their story—that of a family uniting and unraveling. To find the daughter taken from her, Plum Valentine must find the child’s father who walked out of a hospital with the day-old baby girl without explanation. Seventeen years later, weary of her unfruitful search, Plum sees an article in a community newspaper with a photo of the man for whom she has spent half her life searching. He has become an Episcopal priest. Her plan: confront him and walk away with the daughter he took from her. From Brooklyn to the island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces Plum’s circuitous route to finding her daughter and how Plum’s and the priest’s love came apart . . . read more

a slice from the cake made of air (2016)
LGBTQIA+ Studies. Black & African American Studies. Race & Cultural Studies. Poetry.

A slice from the cake made of air processes the physical and mental trauma of abortion coupled with the desires for sexual and emotional love against a backdrop of contemporary culture with all the sexualization that comes with race, gender, and landscape. From front to back the book is wound through with a single poem whose language is permuted, translated, and retranslated (from English to English) as it cycles around abortion, both asking what artifact / do I resemble and stating small love / small / you failed it / in person. The poems directly confront the sexual self (This isn’t a real orgasm, a real patellar fatigue) and take up the thesis abstract as a malleable form for interrogating the inevitable intersections and overlaps of brains and bodies. Sexy and volatile, a slice from the cake made of air winds over and through itself, with no conclusions or solutions for the mess of living in the world. . . read more

Wisteria (2006)
Black & African American Studies. Poetry.

In Wisteria, Kwame Dawes finds poignant meaning in the landscape and history of Sumter, a small town in central South Carolina. Here the voices of women who lived through most of the twentieth century – teachers, beauticians, seamstresses, domestic workers and farming folk – unfold with the raw honesty of people who have waited for a long time to finally speak their mind. The poems move with the narrative of stories long repeated but told with fresh emotion each time, with the lyrical depth of a blues threnody or a negro spiritual, and with the flame and shock of a prophet forced to speak the hardest truths. These are poems of beauty and insight that pay homage to the women who told Dawes their stories, and that, at the same time, find a path beyond these specific narratives to something embracingly human. Few poets have managed to enter the horror of Jim Crow America with the fresh insight and sharply honed detail that we see in Dawes’s writing. With all good southern songs of spiritual and emotional truth, Dawes understands that redemption is essential and he finds it in the pure music of his art. Dawes, the Ghanaian-born, Jamaican poet is not an interloper here, but a man who reminds us of the power of the most human and civilizing gift of empathy and the shared memory of the Middle Passage and its aftermath across the black diaspora. These are essential poems. . . . . read more

What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (2006)
Black & African American Studies. Poetry.

In each section of What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison, the life experiences of individual Americans (family, famous, and infamous) serve as a frame of reference for exploring 20th century American life, specifically the role of race in the development and sustenance of personal relationships and aspirations. The book’s three sections are framed by sonnets which serve as meditations on certain disappeared and disappearing aspects of the natural world, reminding us that just as with family, authority, and urban spaces, conflicted relationships with plants, animals, and open spaces are an enduring legacy of our histories . . . read more

how to get over (2017)
Black & African American Studies. Poetry.

An astonishing debut, how to get over is part instruction manual, part prayer, part testimony. It attempts to solve the reader’s problems (by telling them how to get over), while simultaneously creating them―troubling the waters with witness and blues. ford’s poems witness via a series of “past life portraits” that navigate personal space as well as the imagined persona. These portraits conjure the blues via the imagined lives of the inanimate (a whip, a machete), the historic (a Negro burial ground, Harriet Tubman, The Red Summer), the iconic (Pecola Breedlove, Richard Pryor, Rodney King). At the same time, these portraits focus on the past lives of the author and grapple with themes including sexuality, sexual abuse, and substance abuse. The collection’s namesake poems speak to bullying and homophobia, blackness, whiteness and gentrification, and even directly address pop culture icons like Kanye West, Chaka Khan, and Nicky Minaj. . . . read more

Testify (2017)
Black & African American Studies. Poetry.

Testify is a book of elegiac interrogations of race in America; the poems reside in ambivalent spaces that seek a steady reconciliation between past and present, self and family, and faith and skepticism. A book of elegiac ambivalence, Testify’s speaker often finds himself trapped between received binaries: black and white, ghetto and suburban, atheism and Catholicism. In many ways, this work is a Bildungsroman detailing the maturation of a black man raised in the crack-laden 1980s, with hip-hop, jazz, and blues as its soundtrack. Rendered with keen attention to the economic decline of the Midwest due to the departure of the automotive industry, this book portrays the speaker wrestling with his city’s demise, family relationships, interracial love, and notions of black masculinity. Never letting anyone, including the speaker off the hook, Testify refuses sentimentality and didacticism and dwells in a space of uncertainty, where meaning and identity are messy, complicated, and multivalent. . . read more

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