Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Paradox of Homegrown Outsiders

By Kenton Rambsy

Chapter three of my book The Geographies of African American Short Stories, “The Paradox of Homegrown Outsiders: Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, and James Baldwin,” explains why southern outsider characters are vital components of short stories by Ellison, Walker, and Baldwin.

They composed short fiction that showed how social mores and local customs influenced internal thoughts of characters. Ellison’s first-person stories about Black male characters show them struggling to fit into shifting and sometimes troubling southern environments.

Ellison and Baldwin ventured into rarely charted territory for major Black writers by taking on the first-person perspectives of white male characters who witnessed the lynching of Black males. They explore the possibilities of Black storytellers passing as white narrators.

Walker’s stories illustrate the experiences of southern women homegrown characters. Her stories reflect her interest in celebrating Black culture and addressing internal conflicts.

This entry is part of a series--A Notebook on The Geographies of African American Short Stories.

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