With her excellent, generous, and nuanced How to Read African American Literature: Post–Civil Rights Fiction and the Task of Interpretation, Aida Levy-Hussen takes on a crucial question about African American fiction's contemporary turn to slavery as content: why have so very many “contemporary narratives of slavery” (2) been published in this, the post–civil rights era? Since the 1980s, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Mat Johnson, Charles Johnson, Gayl Jones, Randall Kenan, Andrea Lee, Alice Randall, and James Alan McPherson, to name just some of the authors Levy-Hussen considers, have all published fiction about slavery. A number of African Americanist literary scholars, perhaps most prominently Arlene Keizer (who, as Levy-Hussen acknowledges, coined the genre term “contemporary narratives of slavery”) and Madhu Dubey, have gone a long way toward answering this question of why and why now. While carefully acknowledging and drawing on their...

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