- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Main Street Books; 1st edition (October 5, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385491751
- ISBN-13: 978-0385491754
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,437,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors 1st Edition
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Sure, Jewell Parker Rhodes is African American. Many of the writing traditions to which she refers in Free Within Ourselves--the slave narrative, trickster legends--are specific to African American culture. The resonant works of short fiction, reprinted here in their entirety, that she uses to illustrate fictional elements were written by such African Americans as Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Johnson, Toni Cade Bambara, and John Edgar Wideman. The 67 authors whose pearls of writing wisdom bring this book to its fine conclusion are all African American. Rhodes even bills her book as "fiction lessons for black authors." So why should the rest of us bother?
Because Rhodes has written a rich and vibrant guide to creating fiction, and she's engaged a whole community of celebrated writers to show us how it's done. Like the authors of many such books, Rhodes touches on all the expected aspects of fiction writing: character, plot, viewpoint, description, dialogue, theme, and revision. But as Rhodes takes a different approach, reading this book is like coming upon a familiar sight from a completely new angle. For instance, fiction writers tell stories. That's what they do. But black Americans, because slaves were not allowed to read or write, come from a strong and enduring oral storytelling tradition, a tradition that exists, in various forms, even today. Find a storyteller, recommends Rhodes, and write a page in his or her voice. "Listen for the 'gaps' in one of your family's stories," she says. "Listen for the silences, for what might be left unsaid, the secrets, then--imagine." Especially fine, too, is Rhodes's chapter on dialogue, which includes a section on subtext and a fascinating discussion about dialect, particularly apropos, as "African Americans often shift between standard and Black English."
Unlike the authors of many such books, Rhodes is well aware that most of us don't have eight hours a day to sit, uninterrupted, composing. There are jobs, dishes, children, and life to be lived. Still, she reminds us, "slowing down doesn't mean stopping." Do what you can. And remember: "This is your one and only life. Don't cheat yourself on your goals." --Jane Steinberg
Praise for Jewell Parker Rhodes's Magic City:
"A compelling page-turner that will keep readers hoping against hope that everything will, magically, turn out for the best." --The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Jewell Parker Rhodes's characters hover. They dance and sing and cry and whisper secrets in your ear." --Emerge