8 Books Published by New York Review Books on Our Site — Book Cover Mosaic

Mojo Hand

by J.J. Phillips
NYRB Classics (Nov 01, 2022)
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Race, obsession, and the blues are the themes of this wildly original novel by African American poet, novelist, and activist J. J. Phillips.Eunice Prideaux, a young, light-skinned black woman from a well-to-do San Francisco family, is sick of her conventional home. One evening when guests are over, she puts “Bakershop Blues,” by the legendary blues singer Blacksnake Brown, on the record player, and soon the whole well-mannered company is groaning and moaning along with the music.

Soon, too, Eunice has packed up and set off for Raleigh, North Carolina, where Blacksnake lives, knowing that she has “to go find the source of it herself, this music that moved her and the others, however much they tried to deny it.” Disembarking from a train into a hot southern night, Eunice finds herself in an unfamiliar world. Arrested on suspicion of soliciting, she spends a night in prison. After her release, she tracks Blacksnake down and soon she has moved in with him. There is nothing nice about Blacksnake or his way of life. The power of his music is real; so is the ugliness with which he treats Eunice, who finds herself in a dark place, almost deprived of the will to live. Mojo Hand, however, is an Orphic tale, a story of initiation into art and individuality no matter the cost, and Eunice will emerge from the darkness transformed. Long out of print, J. J. Phillips’s novel is a powerfully original work of fiction that sings the blues.


Click for more detail about Generations: A Memoir by Lucille Clifton Generations: A Memoir

by Lucille Clifton
New York Review Books (Nov 16, 2021)
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A moving family biography in which the poet traces her family history back through Jim Crow, the slave trade, and all the way to the women of the Dahomey people in West Africa.

Buffalo, New York. A father’s funeral. Memory.

In Generations, Lucille Clifton’s formidable poetic gift emerges in prose, giving us a memoir of stark and profound beauty. Her story focuses on the lives of the Sayles family: Caroline, “born among the Dahomey people in 1822,” who walked north from New Orleans to Virginia in 1830 when she was eight years old; Lucy, the first black woman to be hanged in Virginia; and Gene, born with a withered arm, the son of a carpetbagger and the author’s grandmother.

Clifton tells us about the life of an African American family through slavery and hard times and beyond, the death of her father and grandmother, but also all the life and love and triumph that came before and remains even now.

Generations is a powerful work of determination and affirmation. “I look at my husband,” Clifton writes, “and my children and I feel the Dahomey women gathering in my bones.”

Praise For Generations: A Memor:

“Impressive—honest, clear-eyed with a shapeliness natural to poets… . In addition to possessing the ease and intimacy of Clifton’s poetry, Generations speaks to, for, and from fictional and posthumous lives—Moses, Medgar Evers, Amazons, Bob Marley, Sleeping Beauty, etc. She is comfortable and knowing about the dead… . Lucille is another word for light, which is the soul of ‘enlightenment.’ And she knew it.” —Toni+Morrison

"Of great poets whose poems are kin to Clifton’s, I think of Emily Dickinson; to Dickinson’s intense compression Clifton adds explicit historical consciousness. And of Pablo Neruda: Clifton subtracts hyperbole from his elemental clarity.” —Elizabeth Alexander, The New Yorker


Click for more detail about The Stone Face by William Gardner Smith The Stone Face

by William Gardner Smith
New York Review Books (Jul 13, 2021)
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A roman à clef about racism, identity, and bohemian living amidst the tensions and violence of Algerian War-era France, and one of the earliest published accounts of the Paris massacre of 1961.

As a teenager, Simeon Brown lost an eye in a racist attack, and this young African American journalist has lived in his native Philadelphia in a state of agonizing tension ever since. After a violent encounter with white sailors, Simeon makes up his mind to move to Paris, known as a safe haven for black artists and intellectuals, and before long he is under the spell of the City of Light, where he can do as he likes and go where he pleases without fear. Through Babe, another black American émigré, he makes new friends, and soon he has fallen in love with a Polish actress who is a concentration camp survivor. At the same time, however, Simeon begins to suspect that Paris is hardly the racial wonderland he imagined: The French government is struggling to suppress the revolution in Algeria, and Algerians are regularly stopped and searched, beaten, and arrested by the French police, while much worse is to come, it will turn out, in response to the protest march of October 1961. Through his friendship with Hossein, an Algerian radical, Simeon realizes that he can no longer remain a passive spectator to French injustice. He must decide where his true loyalties lie.


Click for more detail about Negrophobia: An Urban Parable by Darius James Negrophobia: An Urban Parable

by Darius James
New York Review Books (Feb 19, 2019)
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"In this social-media era, when we are more intent than ever on isolating things that offend and outrage, Negrophobia revels in its own outrageousness, and thus is more of a tonic now than it was almost three decades ago. It neither blinks nor recoils at the stereotypes, insults, and presumptions that have been used to cage and subdue African American self-esteem, but compels its readers to confront rather than retreat from or smooth over the retro Jim Crow imagery….American literature has seen the ascent of talented young black writers who aren’t willing to settle for parochial or hidebound conceptions of who they are and what they should say…and it’s a fine time to be reminded that crazy, willful acts of hoodoo storytelling such as Negrophobia helped make this renaissance possible." —Gene Seymour, Bookforum

"Luridly funny and unsparingly smart, Negrophobia is American arcana of the highest order. And like all truly cool books, destined to forever be ahead of its time." —Paul Beatty

"Darius James is a great writer." —Kathy Acker

"I opened James’s book only to topple into hell. In fact, Negrophobia is the black version of American Psycho." —Dany Laferri�re, Los Angeles Times

"I read Negrophobia when I was still in grad school… . It was one of those good but rare occasions when I thought there might be one other person in the world that would get what I was doing." —Kara Walker, DB Artmag

"Comic, manic, and amazing, [Negrophobia] tells more about American race relations than all of the walking dead suburban experts, academics, and think tank whores who tell their fellow suburbanites about how it feels to be black." —Ishmael Reed

"Jarring, outrageous images hurtle from nearly every page of this postmodern vivisection of the contemporary African American condition…. There is imagination and wicked humor in all of this, as well as some piercing insight." —Publishers Weekly

"This is a novel of exposure, not solution. Those willing to take the ride will find language and imagery that provide an understanding of everything offensive and American. To see Bubbles dragged through the mire of racial and sexual taboos is to experience the reclamation of the icons and stereotypes that are the signposts of relations among Americans. It’s not an altogether pleasant experience. No one who reads Negrophobia is playing in the dark — just lost in it. The novel, however, is no more unpleasant an experience than, say, having a police baton swung at your body, or having a steel-tipped boot kick you a few hundred times after you’ve been dragged out of your tractor-trailer. With its feet firmly planted in the satiric tradition of Voltaire Ishmael Reed, John Kennedy Toole, and Okot p’Bitek, James’s book is both timely and necessary." —Christian Haye, The Village Voice

"Wild, non-stop phantasmagoria…In style, theme, and tone, the work of performance artist James is somewhat reminiscent of Ishmael Reed or Amiri Baraka, but his dialog is snappier. The vibrant prose makes for lively reading. Highly recommended." —Library Journal

"A pop-schlock phantasmagoria that owes as much to William Burroughs as it does to S. Clay Wilson. James’s raucous debut is by far the best novel to emerge from New York’s Lower East Side literary scene." —Kirkus
"Darius James is one of the funniest writers in America, and one of the most serious. His subject is the big one: slavery; his questions are the big ones: who is slave to what?" —George Trow


"Comic strip, sci-fi flick, vaudeville, black-faced minstrel show, and lyrical poem all rolled into one. Negrophobia is a funky, raunchy, angry, hilarious nightmare vision of black culture. A ferocious send-up of African-American stereotypes and white racism. Darius James bursts into literature with a wild, surrealistic imagination." —Catherine Texier

"Darius James is a dazzling scenarist, a wanton imagist and a nubile perpetrator of the great felony on new literature. This is a writer of blazing intensity. Forever may he wave." —Joel Rose

"This book is not a novel but a curse which will explode in your mind and cause your bottom to drop out. Of all the neo-hoodoo cosmogonic jesters, Darius James proves himself to be the most promising." —Steve Cannon


Click for more detail about Blackballed: The Black Vote And Us Democracy by Darryl Pinckney Blackballed: The Black Vote And Us Democracy

by Darryl Pinckney
New York Review Books (Sep 30, 2014)
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Blackballed is Darryl Pinckney’s meditation on a century and a half of participation by blacks in US electoral politics. In this combination of memoir, historical narrative, and contemporary political and social analysis, he investigates the struggle for black voting rights from Reconstruction through the civil rights movement to Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns. Drawing on the work of scholars, the memoirs of civil rights workers, and the speeches and writings of black leaders like Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael, Andrew Young and John Lewis, Pinckney traces the disagreements among blacks about the best strategies for achieving equality in American society as well as the ways in which they gradually came to create the Democratic voting bloc that contributed to the election of the first black president. 

Interspersed through the narrative are Pinckney’s own memories of growing up during the civil rights era and the reactions of his parents to the changes taking place in American society. He concludes with an examination of ongoing efforts by Republicans to suppress the black vote, with particular attention to the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Also included here is Pinckney’s essay “What Black Means Now,” on the history
of the black middle class, stereotypes about blacks and crime, and contemporary debates about “post-blackness.”


Click for more detail about Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin by Gabriel Garcia Marquez Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
NYRB Classics (Jul 06, 2010)
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In 1973, the film director Miguel Littín fled Chile after a U.S.-supported military coup toppled the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende. The new dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, instituted a reign of terror and turned Chile into a laboratory to test the poisonous prescriptions of the American economist Milton Friedman. In 1985, Littín returned to Chile disguised as a Uruguayan businessman. He was desperate to see the homeland he’d been exiled from for so many years; he also meant to pull off a very tricky stunt: with the help of three film crews from three different countries, each supposedly busy making a movie to promote tourism, he would secretly put together a film that would tell the truth about Pinochet’s benighted Chile—a film that would capture the world’s attention while landing the general and his secret police with a very visible black eye.

Afterwards, the great novelist Gabriel García Márquez sat down with Littín to hear the story of his escapade, with all its scary, comic, and not-a-little surreal ups and downs. Then, applying the same unequaled gifts that had already gained him a Nobel Prize, García Márquez wrote it down. Clandestine in Chile is a true-life adventure story and a classic of modern reportage.


Click for more detail about The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat (New York Review Books Classics) by Carl Van Vechten The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat (New York Review Books Classics)

by Carl Van Vechten
NYRB Classics (Mar 27, 2007)
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“A god, a companion to sorceresses at the Witches’ Sabbath, a beast who is royal in Siam, who in Japan is called ‘the tiger that eats from the hand,’ the adored of Mohammed, Laura’s rival with Petrarch, the friend of Richelieu, the favorite of poets”—such are just a few of the feline distinctions that Carl Van Vechten records in this glorious historical overview of humanity’s long love affair with the cat. As delightful as it is learned, Tiger in the House explores science, art, and history to assemble a treasury of cat lore, while Van Vechten’s sumptuous baroque prose
makes the book’s every page an inexhaustible pleasure.


Click for more detail about The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership by Harold Cruse The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership

by Harold Cruse
NYRB Classics (Jun 30, 2005)
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Published in 1967, as the early triumphs of the Civil Rights movement yielded to increasing frustration and violence, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual electrified a generation of activists and intellectuals. The product of a lifetime of struggle and reflection, Cruse’s book is a singular amalgam of cultural history, passionate disputation, and deeply considered analysis of the relationship between American blacks and American society. Reviewing black intellectual life from the Harlem Renaissance through the 1960s, Cruse discusses the legacy (and offers memorably acid-edged portraits) of figures such as Paul Robeson, Lorraine Hansberry, and James Baldwin, arguing that their work was marked by a failure to understand the specifically American character of racism in the United States. This supplies the background to Cruse’s controversial critique of both integrationism and black nationalism and to his claim that black Americans will only assume a just place within American life when they develop their own distinctive centers of cultural and economic influence. For Cruse’s most important accomplishment may well be his rejection of the clichés of the melting pot in favor of a vision of Americanness as an arena of necessary and vital contention, an open and ongoing struggle.