Friday, April 27, 2012

Kevin Young, Colson Whitehead & Lovejoy Library

Last week, I received an email notice from my university library informing me that Kevin Young's book of essays The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness had been added to the collection. The email had been initiated by humanities librarian Julie Hansen, and as usual, she was alerting me to additions to the library's collection that might be of interest to my students and me.

Julie feels that students often follow-up on authors and books their teachers mention, so she has made sure to acquire all of Young's and Whitehead's books, since she knows those two figures always hover near the top of my reading and research interests. Also, if a library is seeking to develop core groups of contemporary African American writers, these two figures are good places to start.

Young and Whitehead have been extraordinarily productive over the last 10 years. Young's volumes of poetry include Most Way Home (1995), To Repel Ghosts (2001), jelly roll: a blues (2003), Black Maria (2005), For the Confederate Dead (2007), Dear Darkness (2008), and Ardency (2011), and he served as editor of Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers (2000), Blues Poems (2003), John Berryman: Selected Poems (2004), Jazz Poems (2006), The Art of Losing (2010), and The Best American Poetry 2011 (2011). This year, he published his first book of essays, The Grey Album. 

Whitehead's books include The Intuitionist (1999), John Henry Days (2001), The Colossus of New York (2003), Apex Hides the Hurt (2006), Sag Harbor (2009), and Zone One (2011). Whitehead and Young have been friends since their undergrad days at Harvard. Whitehead dedicated his book The Colossus of New York to Young, and Young dedicated The Grey Album to Whitehead.

My interests in publishing history inclines me to view Young's and Whitehead's productivity as signal moments in contemporary African American literary production. Few poets have maintained such an active, extended publishing regime as Young, and relatively few contemporary novelists have received the kind of reception that Whitehead's has (his most recent novel Zone One received over 125 reviews).      

 Fortunately, patrons of Lovejoy Library at SIUE have access to these two writers' many works. I'm thankful that Julie Hansen made that access possible.

Julie Hansen Week: Af-Am Lit, Black Studies & Lovejoy Library

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