In 1987 Bernard W. Bell published The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition, a comprehensive interpretive history of more than 150 vels written by African Americans from 1853 to 1983. The book won the Distinguished Scholarship Award of the College Language Association and was reprinted five times. Now Bell has produced a new volume that serves as a sequel and companion to the earlier work, expanding the coverage to 2001. Bell also refines and extends his interpretive model for reading texts by African American writers, a model based on the vernacular forms of expression of his childhood, the literary theories of Ralph Ellison, and the writings on double-consciousness of W. E. B. Du Bois. T he book begins with a personal essay in which Bell traces the evolution of his thinking about sociohistorical and sociocultural approaches to literature. He goes on to apply these approaches to the work of hundreds of black velists whose work has been published since 1853. His primary focus, however, is on some forty vels and romances published between 1983 and 2001, including works by Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall, Albert Murray, Gloria Naylor, Al Young, David Bradley, Leon Forrest, and Charles Johnson, as well as the neo-Black Aesthetic velists Nathaniel Mackey, Trey Ellis, Percival L. Everett, and Colson Whitehead. In ackwledging the diversity of the tradition of the vel, Bell also examines the science fiction of Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler, the gay vels of E. Lynn Harris, Larry Duplechan, and Randall Kenan, and the detective narratives of Barbara Neely and Walter Mosley. The result is a book of impressive scope and accomplishment - an essential work for any serious student of African American literature.
Bernard W. Bell is professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. He is editor of W. E. B. Du Bois on Race and Culture: Philosophy, Politics, and Poetics (1996), coeditor of Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition (1998), and editor of Clarence Major and His Art: Portraits of an African American Postmodernist (2001).