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This brutally gripping novel about the African-American Great Migration follows the three Moss brothers, who flee the rural South to work in industries up North. Delivered by day into the searing inferno of the steel mills, by night they encounter a world of surreal devastation, crowded with dogfighters, whores, cripples, strikers, and scabs. Keenly sensitive to character, prophetic in its depiction of environmental degradation and globalized labor, Attaway's novel is an unprecedented confrontation with the realities of American life, offering an apocalyptic vision of the melting pot not as an icon of hope but as an instrument of destruction. Blood on the Forge was first published in 1941, when it attracted the admiring attention of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. It is an indispensable account of a major turning point in black history, as well as a triumph of individual style, charged with the concentrated power and poignance of the blues.
Elizabeth Hardwick was one of America's great postwar women of letters, celebrated as a novelist and as an essayist. Until now, however, her slim but remarkable achievement as a writer of short stories has remained largely hidden, with her work tucked away in the pages of the periodicals--such as Partisan Review, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books--in which it originally appeared. This first collection of Hardwick's short fiction reveals her brilliance as a stylist and as an observer of contemporary life. A young woman returns from New York to her childhood Kentucky home and discovers the world of difference within her. A girl's boyfriend is not quite good enough, his "silvery eyes, light and cool, revealing nothing except pure possibility, like a coin in hand." A magazine editor's life falls strangely to pieces after she loses both her husband and her job. Individual lives and the life of New York, the setting or backdrop for most of these stories, are strikingly and memorably depicted in Hardwick's beautiful and razor-sharp prose.
With this appreciation of three very different black writers, novelist Darryl Pinckney reminds us that marginal or neglected literary figures have a lot to tell us about the history of a people who are always "outsiders. " Born in Jamaica in 1883, J. A. Rogers was an early member of the Harlem Renaissance--a newspaper columnist, historian of Negro achievement, polemicist against white supremacy, and amateur sociologist of interracial sex as evidenced in his massive three-volume work Sex and Race. Vincent O. Carter, who came of age in 1920's Kansas City, wrote The Bern Book, an exploration of being black in a Swiss rather than an American setting. Caryl Phillips, a son of the generation of black Caribbeans who returned to Great Britain after the Second World War, has explored the psychology of migration in fiction and nonfiction that include The Final Passage, Higher Ground, and The Nature of Blood. Pinckney's essays on these writers, drawn from his Alain Locke Lectures at Harvard University, give us a rich understanding of what it has meant to be "children of the diaspora" over the past century.
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