Black Writers and the Hispanic Canon

Article excerpt

Black Writers and the Hispanic Canon

by Richard Jackson

New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997. 138 pp.

Reviewed by Edward Mullen

In 1965 the author of the book under review published "An Underdeveloped Area" in Hispania. This brief but powerful statement urged Hispanists to reevaluate how they had built the traditional canon and called for the inclusion of Afro-Hispanic texts in Hispanic studies. It was followed by a series of groundbreaking books (The Black Image in Latin American Literature, 1976, and Black Writers in Latin America, 1979, are probably the best known) that openly challenged prevailing notions about the role played by race and ethnicity in Spanish-American letters. Written in the wake of the Black Arts movement in the late 1960s and firmly grounded in the tenets of the new Black Aesthetic, Jackson's early work had a profound shaping effect on future incursions into the field.

Black Writers and the Hispanic Canon, published as part of Twayne's World Authors Series, may be considered an update to his earlier work. Jackson states his goals clearly: "My primary objective in this work is to identify essential Black Hispanic authors whose works should be better known and can represent the Hispanic canon itself" (xi). As Jackson makes clear as well, his present study is not merely an addendum to what he has done in the past, but includes new readings of classic texts in tandem with the introduction of younger writers. The book is divided into eleven chapters in which Jackson comments on the works of fifteen Black Hispanic writers who the author deems "worth reading, especially to those with a Black North American perspective" (104). In Chapter One, "The Complexity of Complexion: Reading and Understanding Black Hispanic Writing," the author underscores his position about what constitutes Afro-Hispanic literature. For Jackson, writers of African ancestry constitute a community, one shaped by a set of shared experiences, the primary being racism. Although there are, no doubt, those who will disagree with such a position, the honesty and passion with which it is presented will no doubt be recognized by the academic community. …