Best Black Writing of 2009
Editors of two new anthologies talk about what it takes to make the cut for "Best African American Fiction" and "Best African American Essays."
Gerald Early and Debra Dickerson, the editors of the two new anthologies series from Bantam, discuss the books on "The Tavis Smiley Show." The anthologies bring together the best essays and fiction by or about African Americans.
Early, a noted essayist and professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis is the editor for both anthologies; and Dickerson, a former senior editor at "U.S. News and World Report" and acolumnist for "Mother Jones," is guest editor for the non-fiction series.
Dickerson on the anthologies: "I'm really hoping that it will lead to a renaissance, because ... a lot of the great Black writing is essays ... with the anti-slavery track, "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" -- that's an essay. Ralph Ellison, Arthur Murray -- all those people, those are unbelievable good essays. And for me the criteria was, what's an essay that people will still be assigning in classrooms ten years from now, 15 years from now, the same way we're still reading Ellison and all those folks ... I really hope that this will encourage a lot of people to sit down and turn out some of that really, really good work that has been just so foundational in our canons."
A highlight for Dickerson: "One of the things I'm most proud of is we worked hard to get diasporic writing in; even though it says 'African American Essays,' I thought it was crucial to get things from Blacks living outside the country and immigrant Blacks within the country, because I just don't think they're heard from enough at all."
Early explains how the anthologies will bring more attention to Black writing: "I think that these two books make the case that, first of all there's a lot of African American writing going out there; there's a lot of writing about African Americans going on, and it's good to ... take stock of that every year, and what I hope is that these volumes will help people do that, and will introduce people more widely to the great range of African American writing -- how rich it is."
"The Tavis Smiley Show" is a weekly show offering a unique blend of news and newsmakers in expanded conversations, along with feature reports and regular commentators. "The Tavis Smiley Show" is produced by Tavis Smiley productions, and distributed nationwide by PRI.