Margaret D. Bauer, editor: North Carolina Literary Review, Number 28, 2019: Featuring North Carolina African American Literature (University of North Carolina Press)

Established 1922, the University of North Carolina Press – the oldest university press in the South and one of the oldest in the nation, according to the UNC Press homepage – has a long tradition dating back to the late 1920s of publishing books by and about African Americans.

So it is ‘in the tradition’ that the North Carolina Literary Review/NCLR, published once a year by the UNC Press, in its most recent edition (number 28, 2019) is featuring North Carolina African American literature.  

On the editorial board of  NCLR is William L. Andrews (To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865, 1986), who as editor of the two volumes, North Carolina Slave Narratives: The Lives of Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, Moses Grandy, and Thomas H. Jones (2003) and The North Carolina Roots of African American Literature: An Anthology (2006), with contributions by Charles W. Chesnutt, Anna Julia Cooper, David Bryant Fulton, George Moses Horton, Harriet Jacobs, Lunsford Lane, Moses Roper, and David Walker, has contributed significantly to placing North Carolina African American writing on the map.

The current issue of NCLR follows in William Andrew’s footsteps with articles on Charles W. Chesnutt, Harriet Jacobs, and George Moses Horton. Noteworthy is Trudier Harris’s essay Aun’ Peggy: Charles Chesnutt’s Vampire Slayer?, about fighting a system, the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery, that ‘drained’ its victims without completely destroying them – at least not right away, signifying on Jewell Gomez’s 1991 vampire novel The Gilda Stories.

Also note Looking for Charles, an essay by Jennifer Harding looking for traces of Charles W. Chesnutt in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Cleveland, Ohio, and – finally – in Chesnutt’s novels and short fictions, at the same time examining her own relationship to the author.

Praised by Randall Kenan (“I like this piece a lot. Very complicated. Very unexpected”), who is  interviewed by Antoine Williams in A Visitation with Randall Kenan, revealing that he is finishing a novel, There’s a Man Going Round Taking Names, and a collection of short stories, If I Had Two Wings. Good news for readers who feel that it has been too long since his last books of fiction, the novel A Visitation of Spirits (1989) and Let the Dead Bury Their Dead (1992, short stories).

While we wait for Kenan to finish up, you can read the novel No One is Coming to Save Us (2017) and the short stories We Are Taking Only What We Need (2011) by Stephanie Powell Watts, a 2012 recipient of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence; the fiction of Jason Mott; poetry by Glenis Redmond, ‘poet, teaching artist, griot’ (What My Hand Say, Press 53, 2016); or (re)read the late scholar C. Eric Lincoln’s somewhat neglected novel, The Avenue, Clayton City (1988).

The artwork in this issue is outstanding.