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Best African American Fiction: 2009 Paperback – January 13, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. There hasn't been an anthology of such talented African-American literary figures since Marita Golden's Gumbo, and the result is a masterful bouquet of literary flowers, some grand, some subtle, but none shrinking. Striking among the collection is Cell One, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's (Half of a Yellow Sun) cautionary tale of what happens when success and ambition outpace discipline and firm-handedness in child-rearing in Nigeria. The son of a professor and his accommodating wife, Nnamabia is titillated by thug life, and it isn't until he's arrested and observes the blatant disrespect toward a sick elder that he remembers the good sense his parents instilled long ago. In This Kind of Red, Helen Lee (Water Marked) tells of a battered woman who copes by counting everything from crayons to the minutes she has to kill her abusive husband. Mat Johnson (Drop) offers an excerpt from The Great Negro Plot, his novel infused with the history of slavery and indentured servitude in colonial New York. With something for every reader's taste, this is a collection not to be missed. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

This inaugural collection of fiction brings together authors across the rich and varied African diaspora experience. Organized into short stories, novel excerpts, and young adult fiction, the collection offers a range of styles, textures, and settings. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s story is set in Nigeria, where American gangster-rap culture is permeating and “guns and tortured loyalties became common.” The U.S. and the Caribbean are the settings for Tiphanie Yanique’s story of intergenerational and mixed-race tensions between two families. The collection includes an excerpt from Mat Johnson’s historical novel set in eighteenth-century New York and an excerpt from Junot Díaz’s novel set in a contemporary urban ghetto. Also included are works by young adult authors Jacqueline Woodson and Walter Dean Myers. Not meant to be a definitive “quasi-Norton edition,” this engaging collection still shows the incredible range of talent and focus of fiction written by African Americans. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Best African American Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553385348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553385342
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,650,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By BiggO on May 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a whole, this collection of fiction writing is pretty good. For a black male writer who is always on the prowl for contemporary black literature, this book gave me a great overview of some of what's being written...short stories and excerpts from adult and young people's fiction (this last category is especially important because it's often easily overlooked). There are some newer names like Amina Gautier and some old reliables like Walter Dean Myers. Another positive thing is that there's NOTHING in this collection written by Zane.

The book's limitations are in its aesthetics starting with its TITLE. Some of us feel that the term "African-American" is not as inclusive as the term "black." "Black", in my opinion, encompasses the global black diaspora, and in effect, that IS what this book tries to do with stories set in the U.S. and abroad, impacted and informed by mainland U.S culture and the cultures of "the Islands", for example. I think titling the book "Best 'African-American' Fiction..." actually does the collection a disservice.

Another MAJOR beef: despite brief portraits of the editors, there is no biographical information on any of the contributing authors. For the book excerpts, neither are there editorial intros or outros to provide background for the material anthologized. Put simply, the editors provide absolutely no context for any of the material in the book. This is a major gaffe.

Yet another curiousity, and this isn't meant as a criticism, is that many of the selections, particularly the short stories, seem to revolve around the theme of interracial relationships. Maybe this yet another side effect of the ascendancy of Barack Obama.

Overall, the book IS worth having, and I've since purchased two of the books that were excerpted in this collection. In all fairness to the editors, this IS the first edition, but we'll expect them to have everything RIGHT next year.
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