Of Dreams Deferred, Dead or Alive: African Perspectives on African-American Writers

Of Dreams Deferred, Dead or Alive: African Perspectives on African-American Writers

Of Dreams Deferred, Dead or Alive: African Perspectives on African-American Writers

Of Dreams Deferred, Dead or Alive: African Perspectives on African-American Writers

Synopsis

This is the first collection of essays in which African critics present an in-depth study of African-American writers. These prominent critics from different African countries and backgrounds bring an important perspective to the complex relationship between African Americans and Africa. Through provocative readings of prominent African-American writers, the contributors provide insights into contemporary African-American issues. This collection offers a rare opportunity to view African opinions on what it means to be African American.

Excerpt

This collection of essays is meant to present African perspectives on African- American writings on Africa; more precisely, the idea is to examine, through the written text, connections between the African American and Africa. While outsiders have had ample opportunity to assess that complex relationship, Africans, the insiders, have largely been silent. Hopefully, this work will contribute meaningfully to the ongoing debate on Africanity and the linkage between the ancestral continent and the diaspora.

The dream motif is very much part of the American phenomenon, and this is most appropriate for a people whose lives have been marked by slavery, spite, deracination, and dehumanization. As part of the whole process of constructing cleavage from Africa, the master tried to transform dreams into nightmares; hence, for the African American (a terminology that Africans find most interesting), Africa became the quintessential nightmare best left dead in the past. Nevertheless, the master forgot that lies could not triumph forever, especially given the lived and living nightmares of slavery and racism within the proclaimed paradise. Langston Hughes's poetry gave the editor of this volume an idea for the collection's title: Perhaps more than any other African-American writer, Hughes describes with poignancy the nightmarish side of the Dream while insisting on the Blacks' determination to fulfill it.

The lead essay attempts to make a critical and historical analysis of the totality of African-American writings as they concern Africa, from the slave period till the present. The analysis deals with a vast number of writers and issues, including those not addressed in other contributions to the collection.

In the essays following, critics discuss individual writers and thinkers. A decidedly African outlook is visible in the essays; for, the imposition of Euro- American tradition has made for many of the misconceptions about Africa. In reading the literature in question, these African critics recognize, as Vincent Odamtten succinctly states in his essay, "the historical conditioned continuities . . .

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