From: IN%"ZonaSur@aol.com" 12-DEC-1998 08:37:35.15
A friend recommends--not African-American, unfortunately, Barry Unsworth's SACRED HUNGER. It has just arrived on my bookshelf, so I protest total ignorance as yet.
My personal, and probably not very academic, opinion is that the experience was so traumatic and the long journey to manumission so fraught with the pressures of stark survival, psychologically as much as literally, that it wasn't exactly a story one sat around the campfire retelling. In the US, anyhow, don't forget that the international trade was illegal after 1808--mind you the illegal trade still went on, as did trade along the coasts. The famous AMISTAD, as I'm sure you are aware, was an ILLEGAL slaver. I guess what I'm saying is that, without literacy for so long--in Frederick Douglass's AUTOBIOGRAPHY, he refers to the laws prohibiting the education of slaves as being kept in darkness--you might not expect more immediate written, let alone fictionalized responses to the African holocaust, as one might, say, in the case of the Jews of Europe. I am also thinking of how strongly linked to the oral traditions of language and telling much of African American literature is in this country--which doubles back to my remark about "sitting around the campfire." Only recently, is it a subject in the public discourse, don't forget, since the Civil Rights era--and despite the endurance of racism and its fellow-travelers in this country. (I have white students who say such charming things in their essays as, why don't 'they' just get over it?) I myself am attempting some work on it--it seems a rather long haul at the moment--and I'm not sure I can say anything much at this point.
I could go on about the other stuff, but that may not be all that helpful.
From: IN%"email@example.com" "jon-christian suggs" 12-DEC-1998 21:36:43.03
I would just point out a) Martin Delany's _Blake; or the Huts of America_, serialized between 1859 and 1861 erratically. Delany represents a slaving voyage from Cuba to West Africa and back in the mid '50s and b) the stream-of-consciousness sections recreating the Middle Passage via the sensibilities of Beloved in the novel of that name.
If you will take film as a kind of African-American narrative, then Julie Dash's _Daughters of the Dust_ has a meditation on the Middle Passage.
John Jay College/CUNY
From: IN%"ZonaSur@aol.com" 13-DEC-1998 11:28:04.37
<<The perspective in Barry Unsworth's Sacred Hunger, is European. (Incidentally, what does B. Mills mean when he describes Unsworth as 'not African-American, unfortunately?')>>
You presume I am a male person, interestingly.
What I meant was in response to the query for an African American writer that Unsworth did not fit the request and in that sense, it was "unfortunate". I think the original query was quite specific--what about African American writers' response to the experience in their writing, not whether anyone else was qualified to /should or should not write about it as well - was there something unique about its under- representation in African American literature?
I do, however, think that you bring up an important issue: market driven arts are being pressured to fit the ideas of the publishers/producers about salability--certainly in the US they are--not about art or historical accuracy. Certainly Brazil, its long history or slavery, and the continued communication among slaves and Africa is a logical possibility for a book about the MP.
In addition to explaining some things about skewed topics, the marketing--ugh!--issue may also help to explain why certain works are chosen/not chosen for public airing.