Interviews Focus on Middle Passage & Manchild in the Promised Land
2015 marks the anniversary of two significant books by African Americans: the 25th anniversary of the publication of MIDDLE PASSAGE by Charles Johnson and 50th anniversary of the publication of MANCHILD IN THE PROMISED LAND by Claude Brown. Both books will be featured on KAZI Book Review’s July 27 edition at 8 a.m. CST on KAZI 88.7FM. Charles Johnson won the National Book Award for Fiction for MIDDLE PASSAGE, only the second African American to win the award for fiction at that time.
In the first segment of KBR, I discuss the origins of MIDDLE PASSAGE with its author Charles Johnson. The novel’s protagonist is Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave and irrepressible rogue, desperate to escape unscrupulous bill collectors and an impending marriage to a priggish schoolteacher. He jumps aboard the first boat leaving New Orleans, the Republic, a slave ship en route to collect members of a legendary African tribe, the Allmuseri. Thus begins a daring voyage of horror and self-discovery.
Charles Johnson, a 1998 MacArthur fellow, is the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Endowed Professor of English at the University of Washington in Seattle. His fiction includes Dr. King’s Refrigerator, Dreamer, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
MANCHILD IN THE PROMISED LAND is a semi-autobiographical novel widely regarded as one of the most realistic and poignant portrayals of everyday life for the first generations of African Americans who grew up in northern cities during the 1940s and 1950s. In it, Claude Brown chronicles his coming of age in Harlem with both fondness and sadness, lamenting the many in his neighborhood, including his younger brother, who fell victim to the persistent violence, poverty and alcohol and drug addiction that plagued the community. Claude Brown died in 2002. KAZI Book Review contributors Evelyn Anderson and Peggy Terry will join me to discuss the significance of the book.