Southern Fiction since the Sixties
In the southern United States, there remains a deep need among both black and white writers to examine the topic of race relations, whether they grew up during segregation or belong to the younger generation that graduated from integrated schools. In Race Mixing, Suzanne Jones offers insightful and provocative readings of contemporary novels, the work of a wide range of writers—black and white, established and emerging. Their stories explore the possibilities of cross-racial friendships, examine the repressed history of interracial love, reimagine the Civil Rights era through children's eyes, herald the reemergence of the racially mixed character, investigate acts of racial violence, and interrogate both rural and urban racial dynamics.
Employing a dynamic model of the relationship between text and context, Jones shows how more than thirty relevant writers—including Madison Smartt Bell, Larry Brown, Bebe Moore Campbell, Thulani Davis, Ellen Douglas, Ernest Gaines, Josephine Humphreys, Randall Kenan, Reynolds Price, Alice Walker, and Tom Wolfe—illuminate the complexities of the color line and the problems in defining racial identity today. While an earlier generation of black and white southern writers challenged the mythic unity of southern communities in order to lay bare racial divisions, Jones finds in the novels of contemporary writers a challenge to the mythic sameness within racial communities—and a broader definition of community and identity.
Closely reading these stories about race in America, Race Mixing ultimately points to new ways of thinking about race relations. "We need these fictions," Jones writes, "to help us imagine our way out of the social structures and mind-sets that mythologize the past, fragment individuals, prejudge people, and divide communities."
About the Author
Suzanne W. Jones is a professor of English at the University of Richmond. She has published many articles about southern literature, and she is the editor of four books: two collections of essays, South to a New Place: Region, Literature, Culture (with Sharon Monteith) and Writing the Woman Artist, and two collections of stories, Crossing the Color Line: Readings in Black and White and Growing Up in the South.
"One of the allures of this book is that readers will want to read all of the 42 works by the 38 men and women, black and white, from 1967 to 2001, discussed and so capably analyzed by Jones... Essential."
"A generously informed commentary on recent fiction by writers well known and admired."
"A valuable treatment of race and racial relations in the modern South as depicted in contemporary southern literature. No other scholarly work has covered this ground so thoroughly. Historically sound, theoretically sophisticated, and characterized by insightful readings of previously understudied novels, Race Mixing fills a real need in southern literary studies."
"Suzanne Jones is a subtle and nuanced writer, with a profound engagement with issues of race and gender, never oversimplifying the complex relationship between the two. There is a strong theoretically—and politically—informed intelligence at work here, and this exploration of black-white relations and the dialogues across racial and national lines is certain to become a classic. The range of writers discussed; the insistent working away at theme and literary detail throughout; and the consistent attention to socio-political as well as literary history: all testify to a scholar working at the height of her powers."
"Suzanne Jones's new study is a generous portrait of the landscape of recent, post–Civil Rights, Southern fiction. Meditative and insightful, Race Mixing will make it easier for the rest of us to mark our own trails through that complex, varied landscape. It will become one of the places to start to understand Southern fiction of the last quarter of the twentieth century."
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