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The Blacker the Berry (Dover Books on Literature & Drama) Paperback – May 19, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"The tragedy of her life was that she was too black," declares the narrator at the start of this powerful novel of intraracial prejudice. Emma Lou Morgan lives in a world of scorn and shame, not because her skin is black, but because it's too black. No one among her family, teachers, and friends has a word of consolation or hope for the despised and rejected girl. With nothing to lose, eighteen-year-old Emma Lou leaves her home in Idaho, seeking love and acceptance on a journey that ultimately leads her to the legendary community of the Harlem Renaissance.
A source of controversy upon its 1929 publication, The Blacker the Berry was the first novel to openly address color prejudice among black Americans. Author Wallace Thurman, an active member of the Harlem Renaissance, vividly recaptures the era's mood and spirit. His portrait of a young woman adrift in the city forms an enduringly relevant reflection of the search for racial, sexual, and cultural identity.
Dover (2008) unabridged republication of the edition published by The Macauley Company, New York, 1929.

About the Author

Wallace Thurman is the author of "Harlem, " a play, and two other novels, "Infants of the Spring" and "Interne." He died in 1934.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Literature & Drama
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Dover Ed edition (May 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486461343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486461342
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.3 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I am not afraid to look the reality of colorism in the eye and acknowledge that it does exist within the black community. It is my greatest hope and dream that someday the dark skinned black and the light skinned black will be seen as the one family in the future. I want so much to love the lightskinned sister and brother as my own reflection and not be divided from them or made to feel that one is treated better than the other, but sadly, that day is not here and this book bravely and powerfully illustrates that point to the fullest.

I am a medium brown colored woman, my mother was very dark skinned and I have witnessed the evils of skin color prejudice all my life. In most situations, it was Black Men who were prejudiced against myself and the women around me beccause of our coloring. These men felt no shame or limit in their racist intra-family prejudice and measured their entire lives by how many light skinned or white women they could attain and how light brite their children could come out. It's everywhere and anyone who denies it is both a fool and a liar.

That is why I highly recommend THE BLACKER THE BERRY by Wallace Thurman. There is no truer portrait of the self-hatred among our people than the one extolled in this book, and what makes it even sadder is that this book was written in the 1920's. So that only shows how deep this kind of evil runs.

Lately, I have become very interested in this subject and I have searched for other books that explore this subject with intelligence, honest, beauty and wisdom and I have found several that I consider to be classics on the subject of Colorism.

(1) MARITA GOLDEN'S book "Don't Play In the Sun" is definitely the most modern up to date book of the bunch.
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Format: Paperback
It is a real shame this book is a "lost" classic. The characters in this book are so real I feel I might see them walking down the street.
The only flaw I can spot in Thurman's book is an over reliance on exposition. I understand he probably wished to keep the story moving and he had a lot of ground to cover, but this story just screamed for more conversation between the characters. Besides, Thurman, also a playwright, is a master at conversation.
If you are reading this, then you obviously have some sort of interest in the theme. If that's true, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I read it over a 24-hour span. I bought it for my fiance, but when I opened the box and read the first few pages, I was hooked. I told my fiance that she would have to wait until I finished it before she could get it. Luckily, it was so engrossing, I finished it the next day.
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Format: Paperback
The Blacker the Berry is a truly classic novel and one from a great time period - the Harlem Renaissance. Wallace Thurman weaves an unfamiliar tale of a African American woman who struggles with her skin color, the acceptance of family members and racism within the black community.
At the time "The Blacker the Berry" was written, it was the first novel of its kind to address issues widely known among the black community, but never discussed.
It's about a young woman, Emma Lou, who's darker skin tone brings anguish and breeds hatred not only for herself but from her lighter skinned relatives. Set in the 1920s, the main character travels from Boise, Idaho to Harlem, New York in hopes of escaping her problems back home. However, she only runs into deeper problems in a new city.
The "Blacker the Berry" shares with us her journey for self love and social equality. Every woman of any race or background can relate to this book in some manner. After reading the novel, I encouraged all of my friends to examine their own views on skin color and share them with others in hopes of breaking down barriers and unwanted stereotypes. It was a wonderful book and I enjoyed reading it because it was very descriptive about Harlem - my original home town.
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By A Customer on November 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've read this book several times and as an African-American who has dealt with this issue as a teenager, let me say that Black readers must beware! If you are among those looking for escapism, "positive images," and bourgeois fantasies, then read Ebony magazine- this is NOT the book for you. If you are looking for RAW reality that may cause you some discomfort but will AT LEAST make you think about your subconscious beliefs and bring about some serious self-examination, then GO for it! This and Carter G. Woodson's "Miseducation of the Negro" should be in every black person's home!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Written in 1929, The Blacker the Berry was a shocking novel in that it exposed, for the first time, the existence of racism with the black community. The main character, Emma Lou Brown, is a dark-skinned woman who struggles to find acceptance in a black community that prizes lighter colored skin tones. Leaving her home town in Idaho, Emma admits that she was the only black student in her high school. She hopes that her new collegiate life in Los Angeles will help her to find new friends, but instead she is shunned by fellow black students because of her very dark color. Simultaneously, she herself rejects those students whom she deems “not of her class” – ie, southern blacks who come to the school in order to better themselves.

As the novel continues, Emma Lou leaves California for New York City and the birth of the Harlem renaissance. Things aren’t much better here. The only job available to her is that of a maid, even though she has a college education and is able to do secretarial work. Apparently lighter skinned girls are preferred for those positions. She finds the same thing happens with finding a place a live and even in her personal relationships. But again, Emma Lou also perpetuates the discriminatory attitudes with biases of her own.

Like many “breakthrough” novels, this one was important, but not very well-written nor very interesting. Luckily it was very short.
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