An exhaustive, informative, and entertaining survey of African-American folklore, its centrality to American culture, and...

THE ANNOTATED AFRICAN AMERICAN FOLKTALES

This anthology of African-American folk tales, edited by Harvard professors Gates (In Search of our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Pasts, 2017, etc.) and Tatar (Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales About Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World, 2017, etc.), gathers more than 100 folk tales from the African diaspora into an exhaustive collection for both academic and casual audiences.

Gates and Tatar combine critical essays on the origins of black folklore collections, primary sources, and essay-length statements from past archivists—including Joel Chandler Harris, Zora Neale Hurston, and Sterling A. Brown—in order to give readers a comprehensive sense of black folklore's unique role in American literary and political culture. Casual readers can simply enjoy the anthology's extensive sampling of familiar tales. An entire chapter is dedicated to variations on "The Tar-Baby Story," and Brer Rabbit appears in dozens of stories. Harris' Uncle Remus tales get considerable attention, as do the tales in Hurston's towering folklore collection, Mules and Men. The edition's useful annotations clarify these tales' language, making them more accessible to a wider audience. The editors also make room for analogous stories from Latin American traditions and black adaptations of European fairy tales, demonstrating how myths and folk tales are often universal in nature. As convenient as it will be for casual readers to have these tales collected into one volume, this anthology will be of greatest interest to an academic audience. Gates' and Tatar's introductions provide essential critical frameworks for understanding black folk culture's centrality to wider American culture, while the secondary sources shed light on the various methodologies and philosophies that have informed how scholars gather folklore.

An exhaustive, informative, and entertaining survey of African-American folklore, its centrality to American culture, and the universality of myth.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-87140-753-5

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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