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Derrick Bell is perhaps best known for the principled stand he took at Harvard in 1990 when he quit his tenured position on the law-school faculty to protest the school's failure to grant tenure to a black woman. Now a visiting professor at New York Law School, Bell is still deeply interested in issues of race relations and has chosen to explore the subject fictionally in Afrolantica Legacies. In a nutshell, the story goes like this: a mysterious land mass suddenly appears in the Atlantic Ocean, a fabulous island on which only black people can survive. American blacks set sail to the island to begin a new life, only to see it sink again before they can reach the shore. On the return trip to America, the passengers draw up a list of principles called the Afrolantica Legacies, defining how they want to reposition themselves in American society.
The stories Bell tells to illustrate his points are narrated by Geneva Crenshaw, a character he has used in earlier fiction. Racism, government conspiracies against blacks, and Jewish-black relations are the subjects here, and heroes of African American history such as Marcus Garvey, Thurgood Marshall, and Nat Turner all make appearances. Depending on which side of the black/white divide you happen to stand, Bell's take on race relations in America will either seem right on the money or very grim indeed.
With shades of his previous book, Bell (Gospel Choirs, LJ 5/1/96) continues with his odd mixture of parables and political essays. In this sequel, he pairs fictional sidekick Geneva Crenshaw with President Clinton, who was influenced by her to make a speech at an event called "Racial Liberation Day," with a message to white Americans. Putting himself into the book as a character, Bell moves on to explain the legacy of "Afrolantica," a "promised land" for African Americans that sank to the bottom of the ocean. At this point, he borders on the absurd, using too much levity, as when he has contact with a supernatural being who descends to Earth in a parachute. Bell then gets serious as he debates one of his colleagues on black-Jewish relations and offers a critique on black academics. With his unconventional style, he nevertheless delivers powerful commentary on the issues of the day. Recommended for African American collections and those scholars seeking a challenge to their sensibilities.?Ann Burns, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.