Examining the surrealist novels of several contemporary writers including Edwidge Danticat, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, Junot Díaz, Helen Oyeyemi, and Colson Whitehead, AfroSurrealism, the first book-length exploration of AfroSurreal fiction, argues that we have entered a new and exciting era of the black novel, one that is more invested than ever before in the cross sections of science, technology, history, folklore, and myth. Building on traditional surrealist scholarship and black studies criticism, the author contends that as technology has become ubiquitous, the ways in which writers write has changed; writers are producing more surrealist texts to represent the psychological challenges that have arisen during an era of rapid social and technological transitions. For black writers, this has meant not only a return to Surrealism, but also a complete restructuring in the way that both past and present are conceived, as technology, rather than being a means for demeaning and brutalizing a black labor force, has become an empowering means of sharing information. Presenting analyses of contemporary AfroSurreal fiction, this volume examines the ways in which contemporary writers grapple with the psychology underlying this futuristic technology, presenting a cautiously optimistic view of the future, together with a hope for better understanding of the past. As such, it will appeal to scholars of cultural, media and literary studies with interests in the contemporary novel, Surrealism, and black fiction.
Table of Contents
Introduction: AfroSurrealism: A New Black Surrealism
1. Mat Johnson’s Pym and Helen Oyeyemi’s boy snow bird: AfroSurrealism, Magical Realism, and the Psychology of Reimagining the Past
2. Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light, Chris Abani’s The Secret History of Las Vegas, and the AfroSurreal Grotesque
3. AfroSurreal and Afrofuturistic Cinematic Storytelling: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Colson Whitehead’s Zone One
4. The Postmodern Fables of Victor LaValle’s Big Machine and Summer Brenner’s Oakland Tales
5. Horror and Immortality in Tananarive Due’s Ghost Summer, Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids, and Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ Woman After Her Last Wound
Conclusion: Jeffery Renard Allen and Sustaining the Surreal Moment
Rochelle Spencer is co-editor of All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color.
"Rochelle Spencer has written an engaging, thoughtful, and intellectual book, AfroSurrealism: The African Diaspora’s Surrealist Fiction. Her introduction provides an overview of a new movement in Surrealism, AfroSurrealism, which she describes along with other speculative fiction movements written by people of color. Further, she shows how these movements differ and offers specific strategies for resisting oppression... With grace, talent, and enthusiasm, Spencer has added a significant piece of work to the scholarship of literature for all." - Ethel Morgan Smith, Hollins University, USA
"In what must be considered a superb symphony of genealogy, cultural retrieval, and literary analysis, Rochelle Spencer’s Afro-Surrealism: The African Diaspora's Surrealist Fiction is a very important contribution to the growing literature on ‘the insistent reordering of reality’ that derives from surrealism, and which, specifically as an aspect of Black writing, is a clarion call to both critique and revolution." - Ato Quayson, Stanford University, USA
"With AfroSurrealism: The African Diaspora’s Surrealist Fiction, Rochelle Spencer has authored a timely critical intervention in a red-hot field. In deft language, she demonstrates how AfroSurrealism 'employs specific historical knowledge for the liberation of the individual and communities,' and in the process expertly disentangles the skeins of Afrofuturism, slipstream, Afropunk, and other related genres. Spencer’s virtuoso command of the literature ranges from Abiola to Žižek, but her trenchant analyses never lose sight of AfroSurrealism’s ultimate aim: to dare us to imagine a better world." - Jürgen E. Grandt, University of North Georgia, USA