Disturbing Calculations: The Economics of Identity in Postcolonial Southern Literature, 1912-2002

By Melanie R. Benson | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
Re-membering the Missing:
Native Americans, Immigrants, and
Atlanta’s Murdered Children in Louis Owens,
Marilou Awiakta, Lan Cao,
James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara,
and Tayari Jones

Give me back my language and build a house

Inside it.

A house of madness.

A house for the dead who are not dead.

And the spiral of the sky above it.

And the sun

and the moon

And the stars to guide us called promise.

JOY HARJO, “WE MUST CALL A MEETING”

In Edward L. Ayers’s sardonic glimpse into the soon-to-be future South we meet a young narrator who cannot fathom how his ancestors could “lump people together into two big groups,” even though “they could see that people they called ‘black’ and ‘white’ were in fact all different colors”; the baffled speaker himself proudly claims a “genealogy from Scotland, Ghana, Honduras, Korea, and the Cherokee nation!” (“Inevitable Future” 89). Yet the biracial, black-white narrative that has long occupied southern letters and criticism remains prevalent in both critical treatments and popular perceptions of the region. Attention to work by southern African American and women writers was itself belated, and there

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