African-American writing featured in books edited by Gerald Early

Those looking to learn more about president-elect Barack Obama and gain an introduction to African-American writing in the process are advised to check out two new books — “Best African American Fiction: 2009” and “Best African American Essays: 2009.”

Gerald Early

Edited by Gerald L. Early, Ph.D., the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and director of the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences, the two volumes are the first in the “Best of…” series to exclusively showcase African-American writing.

The essay volume includes a piece by Obama titled “One Nation…Under God?” on the health care crisis in America. It also includes several pieces written about Obama.

“I think with Obama becoming president there will be an increased interest in all things African-American,” Early said. “Since the writing for these books is mainly from 2007, due to publishing lead-time, the pieces included here will shed light on Obama the candidate. But as his presidency unfolds, I have no doubt there will be future essays in this series about Obama and his impact on the nation and the world.”

Like the series Best American Poetry and others, Early’s series features guest editors. E. Lynn Harris guest edits the collection of fiction and includes pieces by writers for young adults in addition to stories and novel excerpts. Debra Dickerson is guest editor of the essay book.

The first in what will be an annual collection, Early hopes these volumes “will be important volumes in showcasing African-American writing and writers. We hope to give people who would like to be introduced to African-American writing a place to find some of the best writing that has been produced in the past year.”

Both books are available in hardback and paperback from Bantam Dell.

Early is a noted essayist and American culture critic. A professor of English, African & African American Studies, and American Culture Studies, Early is the author of several books, including “The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature and Modern American Culture,” which won the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, and “This Is Where I Came In: Black America in the 1960s.”

He is also editor of numerous volumes, including “The Muhammad Ali Reader” and “The Sammy Davis, Jr. Reader.” He served as a consultant on four of Ken Burns’ documentary films: “Baseball,” “Jazz,” “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” and “The War,” and appeared in the first three as an on-air analyst.

Editor’s Note: Professor Early is available for live or taped interviews using Washington University’s free VYVX or ISDN lines. Please contact Neil Schoenherr at (314) 935-5235 or for assistance.