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Beyond the White NegroEmpathy and Anti-Racist Reading$
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Kimberly Chabot Davis

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038433

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038433.001.0001

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Reading Race and Place

Reading Race and Place

Boston Book Clubs and Post-Soul Fiction

Chapter:
(p.111) 3 Reading Race and Place
Source:
Beyond the White Negro
Author(s):

Kimberly Chabot Davis

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252038433.003.0004

This chapter focuses on the reception of two African American “post-soul” novels that deconstruct essentialist ideas about race. Inviting readers to reconsider binary understandings of blackness and whiteness, Edward P. Jones's The Known World (2003) focuses on free blacks who own slaves in the antebellum South, while Danzy Senna's Caucasia (1998) details the coming of age of a mixed-race girl in Boston in the 1970s and 1980s. The chapter examines how the reading of a racially charged text is influenced by the readers' locality and the communities in which they live and participate. It also compares the conversations of racially mixed book clubs to those with all white or all African American members, and analyzes the connections and disjunctions between empathetic reading and the readers' political lives within a metropolitan area with a long history of racial antagonism.

Keywords:   African-American novels, post-soul fiction, blackness, whiteness, The Known World, Caucasia, readers' locality, book clubs, empathetic reading, readers' political lives, reception study

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