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The New Annotated African American Folktales

Hardcover Book
WW Norton
November, 2017
$53.95 CAD
Publisher’s Description: 

Drawing from the great folklorists of the past while expanding African American lore with dozens of tales rarely seen before,The Annotated African American Folktales revolutionizes the canon like no other volume. Following in the traditionof such classics asArthurHuff FausetsNegro Folk Tales from the South(1927),ZoraNeale Hurstons Mules and Men(1935), andVirginia Hamiltons The People Could Fly (1985),acclaimed scholars Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar assemble a groundbreaking collection of folktales, myths, and legends that revitalizes a vibrant African American past to produce the most comprehensive and ambitious collection of African American folktales ever published in American literary history. Arguing for the value of these deceptively simple stories as part of a sophisticated, complex, and heterogeneous cultural heritage, Gates and Tatar show how these remarkable stories deserve a placealongside the classic works of African American literature, and American literature more broadly.

Opening with two introductory essays and twenty seminal African tales as historical background, Gates and Tatar present nearly 150 African American stories, among them familiar Brer Rabbit classics, but also stories like The Talking Skull and Witches Who Ride, as well as out-of-print tales from the 1890s Southern Workman. Beginning with the figure of Anansi, the African trickster, master of improvisationa spider who plots and weaves in scandalous waysThe Annotated African American Folktales then goes on to draw Caribbean and Creole tales into the orbit of the folkloric canon. It retrievesstories not seen sincethe Harlem Renaissanceandbrings backarchival tales ofNegro folklore that Booker T. Washington proclaimedhademanated from a grapevine that existed evenbefore the American Revolution,stories brought over by slaves who had survived the Middle Passage. Furthermore, Gates and Tatars volume not only defines a new canon but reveals how these folktales were hijacked and misappropriated in previous incarnations, egregiously by Joel Chandler Harris, a Southern newspaperman, as well as by Walt Disney, who cannibalized and capitalized on Harriss volumes by creating cartoon characters drawn from this African American lore.

Presenting these tales with illuminating annotations and hundreds of revelatory illustrations,The Annotated African American Folktalesreminds us that stories not only move, entertain, and instruct but, more fundamentally, inspire and keep hope alive.

The Annotated African American Folktales includes:

  • Introductory essays, nearly 150 African American stories, and 20 seminal African tales as historical background
  • The familiar Brer Rabbit classics, as well as news-making vernacular tales from the 1890s Southern Workman
  • An entire section of Caribbean and Latin American folktales that finally become incorporated into the canon
  • Approximately 200 full-color, museum-quality images

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