7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2006
I'm not sure why the other two reviewers found Christa Schwarz's Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance difficult to read. I find Schwarz's prose clear and natural and her organizational scheme transparent. More important, Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance is a valuable contribution to black and queer studies--Schwarz's scholarship is impressive and thorough. Until this book appeared, the critical question of how queer genealogy intersected with the New Negro literary movement tended to be localized in debates over individual authors, such as the question of Langston Hughes's sexual orientation. But Schwarz's book does much more than merely consolidate archives into a single text. Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance performs the necessary labor of demonstrating that to talk of the Harlem Renaissance is to speak of the beginning of the queer revolution in the U.S., to suggest that among the emancipatory products of the New Negro was queer counterculture. The significance of Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance cannot be understated.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2006
Honestly, the book is a a difficult read in some spots. Some items may require a second reading just to make sure the point is taken the way it is meant by Schwarz. That said, it is not an impossible read. Usually, Langston Hughes is the primary focus of such detailed scharlarship. This book examines Nugent, Cullen, and McKay who were, in their distinctive ways, just as important as Hughes in contributing to the Harlem Renaissance. All men were gay and dealed with their sexuality in print in a the mannor comfortable to them. Hughes, Cullen, and McKay employed Whitmanesque techniques and Nugent was completely unguarded in his sexual proclivities. For me, that Hughes and Nugent were both gay and yet showed different tastes in men and how they dealed with their sexuality is so interesting. The two men are the same and yet polar opposites of one another. Anyway, the reader will be happy with this book. Such work as Schawrz provides a new way of reading and re-reading these important figures in general literature and adds to the growing study of literature by gay African Americans, an under represented and all to often overlooked area of study.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2005
A.B. Christa Schwarz's GAY VOICES OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE isn't an easy read. Barring the first two chapters, "Gay harlem and the Harlem Renaissance" and "Writing in the Harlem Renaissance....Burden of Representation and Sexual Dissidence," the remaining chapters will need a second or third reading for a coherent understanding for those interested in her discussion.
Ms. Schwarz looks at the work of three male writers from the period who are given their own chapters: Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Richard Bruce Nugent. Of these writers, Cullen, Hughes, and McKay are identified as using
Whitmanesque techniques to express in coded forms their desire for those members of their own sex. For the none initiated, Walt Whitman often changed male gender specific pronouns in his poetry to the feminine form for public consumption. Bruce Nugent was the only one of this group out and open, to some extent, with his sexuality in work and life, even during the down low days in his marriage of comformity.
Of the writers featured here, Countee Cullen is known to have had a few affairs with black and white men as Claude McKay. Cullen was the only one to envelope much of his work in the traditional European framework. Even his funeral many years later was staid in the European tradition of ceremony, contrary to the funeral of Langston Hughes who embraced his blackness in a funeral ceremony far, far away from the white American and
European traditional dogma and form. Langston Hughes wrote primarily for a black audience, celebrated his blackness with radical pride, and avoided with great distaste the traditional European style in the framework and subject matter of his body of work. This should come as no surprised after reading Arnold Rampersad's meticulously researched biographies of Hughes, particularily Vol. 2 where in three uncommom moments absent
of sexual prejudice Rampersad states Hughes's "preference" for black men as evidenced by Hughes's work and "life" (the label of Rampersad being entirely homophobic is not totally fair to him). Schwarz has this in mind when making the comment that in many of Hughes sea/sailor poems, race isn't specified because of the camaraderie of sailors of different nationalities which is in synch with Hughe's socialism poetry of the 1930's. Claude Mckay had the most in common with Hughes in terms of radical black pride and a like of the "low life" or common working class black, but his foreigner status as a Jamaican also made him an outsider to Harlem both figuratively and literally; he chose Greenwich Village as a primary residence and spurned many of the Harlem black intelligentsia. McKay was the only real bisexual of the bunch who had affairs with men and women, black and white, domestic and foreign. Yet, as many of his coded gay references appeared to indicate, he could be harsh toward white society in gerneral. Richard Bruce Nugent was the only openly gay black man of the men in this book who did not employ Whitmanesque techniques to conceal his interest. He was open and primarily showed an interest in white men and white Latin men in his work and life, the complete polar opposite of Langston Hughes. Sadly, Ms. Schwarz fails to grasp an accurate understanding of the work SMOKE, LILLIES, AND JADE whose protagonist is black, not white or of underminded race. This bias is disturbing and ignores on her part that its inclusion in the short lived FIRE!! that was devoted to works "by," "about," and "for" black Americans (i.e. Negros circa 1920's). Two, she fails to realize that "Beauty," the Latin object of desire in the story is a composite of Langston Hughes, Harold Jackman, and Valintino.
The book isn't an easy read, but it is a worthwhile read providing one shows patience and at least a little knowledge of the subjects other than that of their surface persona. Incidentally, the cover is based on Cullen's poem "Tableau" where a black and white man are portrayed as walking hand in hand at the surprise and disgust of onlookers, black and white. The painting was designed by Jacob Lawrence.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is a must have for anyone interested in the monumental literary contributions of Men Of Color who were also LGBT. Fascinating.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2003
A. B. Christa Schwarz wrote a really learned book. Maybe it's the only way a German scholar can write. Not always easy to read it's a interesting study to read not only for literary historians. The study is a must for everyone interested in the Harlem Renaissance as a literary phenomenon. Schwarz focuses on Countze Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay and Richard Bruce Nugent. Readers learn a lot about Alain Locke as well. Locke played a leading role in the Harlem Renaissance. Maybe Schwartz' next book will tell us more about Locke. We are waiting for it.