The Harlem Renaissance’s New Chapter

John Williams in The New York Times:

BookBlack History Month this year brings with it a significant addition to the history of African-American literature: “Amiable With Big Teeth,” a “lost” novel by the notable Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay. In 2009, Jean-Christophe Cloutier, now an assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, was working toward his Ph.D. at Columbia University when he came across a double-spaced manuscript that appeared to be by McKay among the archived papers of Samuel Roth, a publisher who had often found himself in First Amendment battles. When The Times reported on the manuscript’s authentication in 2012, the writer and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. said McKay’s lost novel was important, in part, for the way it extended our view of the Harlem Renaissance, which “continued to be vibrant and creative and turned its focus to international issues” as the 1930s progressed.

“Amiable With Big Teeth” — with a subtitle equal to its wonderful title (“A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem”) — is about a group of activists in that neighborhood who banded together to support Ethiopia against Mussolini’s occupation. In their introduction, Cloutier and Brent Hayes Edwards call the book a “caustic, even overtly polemical, depiction of the complex Harlem political landscape in the mid-1930s as it shifted in the shadow of international events.”

More here. (Note: At least one post throughout February will be in honor of Black History Month)

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