"Dunbar argues that the four authors constructed a 'region' for alternative blackness, navigating between nationalist, antinationalist, and internationalist perspectives on racial segregation. Each chapter offers original readings of the authors' works - the chapter on Himes being particularly insightful - that go against the grain of the academic conversation. Buoyed by extensive research, the volume will be of primary interest to scholars of American literature." Publishers Weekly "Eve Dunbar's Black Regions of the Imagination renegotiates the relationship between regionalism in African American literature and ethnography as a practice and form of knowledge production around race in the United States... Dunbar scrutinizes this intellectual and cultural tension in the critically undertheorized period between major African American literary movements of the twentieth century: the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement... Dunbar's necessary reevaluation of regionalism produces nuanced, against-the-grain readings of the canonical authors studied in each chapter."--MELUS, Summer 2013 "Compact, readable, and incisive, Eve E. Dunbar's Black Regions of the Imagination examines the ethnographic strategies and ironies of African American writers between 1930 and 1970 that probed the specter of national belonging and demonstrated the contrapuntal nationalist and internationalist conceptions of race... Dunbar astutely repurposes black internationalism to account for the national experience of race."--Journal of American History
Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Chester Himes were all pressured by critics and publishers to enlighten mainstream (white) audiences about race and African American culture. Focusing on fiction and non-fiction they produced between the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, Eve Dunbar’s important book, Black Regions of the Imagination, examines how these African American writers—who lived and traveled outside the United States—both document and re-imagine their “homegrown” racial experiences within a worldly framework.
From Hurston’s participant-observational accounts and Wright’s travel writing to Baldwin’s Another Country and Himes’ detective fiction, these writers helped develop the concept of a “region” of blackness that resists boundaries of genre and geography. Each writer represents—and signifies—blackness in new ways and within the larger context of the world. As they negotiated issues of “belonging,” these writers were more critical of social segregation in America as well as increasingly resistant to their expected roles as cultural “translators.”