Byerman, Keith Eldon, 1948-

Remembering the past in contemporary African American fiction / Keith Byerman. - Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2005. - viii, 228 p. ; 25 cm.

Includes bibliographical references (p. [209]-222) and index.

History, culture, discourse : America's racial formation -- Burying the dead : the pain of memory in Beloved -- Bearing witness : the recent fiction of Ernest Gaines -- Troubling the water : subversive women's voices in Dessa Rose and Mama Day -- A short history of desire : Jazz and Bailey's Cafe -- The color of desire : folk history in the fiction of Raymond Andrews -- Postmodern slavery and the transcendence of desire : the novels of Charles Johnson -- Family secrets : reinventions of history in The Chaneysville incident -- Family troubles : history as subversion in Two wings to veil my face and Divine days -- Lost generations : John Edgar Wideman's Homewood narratives -- Apocalyptic visions and false prophets : the end(s) of history in Wideman, Johnson, and Morrison.

With close readings of more than twenty novels by writers including Ernest Gaines, Toni Morrison, Charles Johnson, Gloria Naylor, and John Edgar Wideman, Keith Byerman examines the trend among African American novelists of the late twentieth century to write about black history rather than about their own present. Employing cultural criticism and trauma theory, Byerman frames these works as survivor narratives that rewrite the grand American narrative of individual achievement and the march of democracy. The choice to write historical narratives, he says, must be understood historically. These writers earned widespread recognition for their writing in the 1980s, a period of African American commercial success, as well as the economic decline of the black working class and an increase in black-on-black crime. Byerman contends that a shared experience of suffering joins African American individuals in a group identity, and writing about the past serves as an act of resistance against essentialist ideas of black experience shaping the cultural discourse of the present. Byerman demonstrates that these novels disrupt the temptation in American society to engage history only to limit its significance or to crown successful individuals while forgetting the victims. --Publisher.

0807829803 (cloth : alk. paper) 9780807829806 (cloth : alk. paper) 0807856479 (pbk. : alk. paper) 9780807856475 (pbk. : alk. paper)


American fiction--African American authors--History and criticism.
Literature and history--History--United States--20th century.
American fiction--History and criticism.--20th century
African Americans--Intellectual life--20th century.
Historical fiction, American--History and criticism.
Autobiographical memory in literature.
African Americans in literature.
History in literature.
Memory in literature.

PS374.N4 / B94 2005