The Sixties in Afro-American Fiction
A stimulating study of 1960s black literature that sees American history through the literary art that rose out of the painful conflicts of Black Power, Vietnam, and the Civil Rights Movement
This stimulating study of black literature of the 1960s is an analysis of a period of American history through the literary art it produced.
In Connecting Times Norman Harris focuses on how Afro-Americans involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power movement, or the Vietnam War either failed or achieved in making sense of their lives when the goals they struggled for were not accomplished. In seven novels whose plot and characterization are determined by one or more of these major historical events—Meridian, Look What They Done to My Song, The Cotillion or One Good Bull is Half the Herd, The Last Days of Louisiana Red, Captain Blackman, Coming Home, and Tragic Magic—Harris finds the basis for his interpretations, and he finds the place of these novels likewise in the context of historical writings of the 1960s.
Central to Harris's analysis of history through literature is the idea of the quest myth that permeates Afro-American culture. According to Robert Stepto, the quest is for freedom and literacy, freedom as an end to slavery and literacy as the ability to read, write, and indeed to interpret cultural signs.
For those Afro-Americans attuned to their culture this symbolic meaning manifests a collective significance for Afro-American cultural symbols. It is these whom Harris considers truly literate.
He extends his concept of freedom to knowledge of the many options available in the reservoir of Afro-American history. This freedom is knowledge of racial memory, and one's awareness of this racial memory and its effect upon individuals in confrontational situations determines one's degree of literacy.
It is these definitions of freedom and literacy and the Afro-American quest for them that Harris applies in his analysis of literature set against the historical backdrop of Civil Rights, Black Power, and Vietnam.
This study of American social history under the illuminating ray of the novels rising out of the black struggle for freedom and literacy offers valuable insights and new interpretations for a pivotal time in the United States.