Nightboat Books has just published Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977-1997, an anthology of stories, essays, plays, and other writing edited by Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy. A kool cover by Brett Reichman, too. A lot of the writers are West Coast people, LA and San Fransciso (I really miss both cities), some East Coast, and some have got to be in-between, but if they are, I have yet to discover it.
Anyway, I’ve just started reading Writers Who Love and have begun with Gabrielle Daniels’ essay on Our Nig by Harriet E. Wilson, “the first novel by an African American woman” to be published in the US. Our Nig was published in 1859 and I read this book over a decade ago. It’s on my shelf now. It’s amazing. My girlfriend at the time, Susan, asked me to remove it from the shelves because the title is outrageous, offensive, and needs explaining. But in 1859 it was not. I kept it on the shelf – maybe I moved it to a more private part of the house (I don’t remember). I was always the only person I knew who read this book. The daily life of a Black woman in 1850s New England. Rough, to say the least.
Henry Louis Gates has also discovered this book, and with his skills at finding people from the past, has tried to find Harriet Wilson to learn about her history, the writing of the novel, and anything else he can find about it. His claim is that it is absolutely the first African American women’s novel.
Daniels’ essay is bringing Our Nig back to me and as soon as I’m finished reading it I’ll read the book again. Yes, the title is harsh in 21st Century America – I kind of agree with Susan – but the book’s important!
There’s lots more in Writers Who Love Too Much! My summer reading. It’s a sexy, scholarly (sorry, I don’t find academics very sexy, either, but I find scholarship to be pretty sexy), writerly history of New Narrative.
Thanks to Kevin and Dodie for including me! I am humbled and also kinda proud, too.
Read about the City Lights Books book launch of Writers Who Love Too Much.