Rediscovering Frank Yerby
The first book-length sounding of the major contributions of the first black American novelist to sell more than a million copies
Contributions by Catherine L. Adams, Stephanie Brown, Gene Andrew Jarrett, John Wharton Lowe, Guirdex Massé, Anderson Rouse, Matthew Teutsch, Donna-lyn Washington, and Veronica T. Watson
Rediscovering Frank Yerby: Critical Essays is the first book-length study of Yerby’s life and work. The collection explores a myriad of topics, including his connections to the Harlem and Chicago Renaissances; readership and reception; representations of masculinity and patriotism; film adaptations; and engagement with race, identity, and religion. The contributors to this collection work to rectify the misunderstandings of Yerby’s work that have relegated him to the sidelines and, ultimately, begin a reexamination of the importance of “the prince of pulpsters” in American literature.
It was Robert Bone, in The Negro Novel in America, who infamously dismissed Frank Yerby (1916–1991) as “the prince of pulpsters. ” Like Bone, many literary critics at the time criticized Yerby’s lack of focus on race and the stereotypical treatment of African American characters in his books. This negative labeling continued to stick to Yerby even as he gained critical success, first with The Foxes of Harrow, the first novel by an African American to sell more than a million copies, and later as he began to publish more political works like Speak Now and The Dahomean.
However, the literary community cannot continue to ignore Frank Yerby and his impact on American literature. More than a fiction writer, Yerby should be put in conversation with such contemporaneous writers as Richard Wright, Dorothy West, James Baldwin, William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell, and more.