Review by Choice Review

Volumes 33 and 38 of this distinguished series deal excellently with black American writers since 1955 (after the era of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison). Both are edited with taste and care by the accomplished literary historians Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris. The books contain a good measure more than the formulas and summaries of most such literary dictionaries. The appendixes include excellent essays on black literature and its critics by Larry Neal, Darwin T. Turner, Rhett S. Jones, and other leading scholars. And the literary biographies themselves are fine, and feature ``cutting edge'' (along with established and barely known) critics on writers both known and not known: Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Ishmael Reed (perhaps the finest essay), Barbara T. Christian on Alice Walker and Paule Marshall, William J. Harris on Al Young, Valerie Smith on David Bradley. It is as exciting and useful to get up-to-date biographies (and bibliographies) of Baldwin and Morrison as it is to meet such new writers as Samm-Art Williams, Alexis Deveaux, and Herbert Alfred Simmons. For the library whose community (academic or otherwise) includes serious readers of modern writing by American blacks, these books are indispensable.-R.G. O'Meally, Wesleyan University

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