The earliest African American autobiographies, the slave narratives, established certain prototypal patterns, both thematic and structural, that recur again and again in the long tradition of African American life writing. The ex-slave narrated the story of the struggle to break from an enslaving community and the struggle to break into a community allowing self-expression and fulfillment in a social role. Increasingly complex and ambiguous manifestations of that pattern emerged in the autobiographies of succeeding generations of African Americans. In addition to exploring several slave narratives, Smith reads autobiographical works by Booker T. Washington, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, Claude Brown, and Maya Angelou.
From resumes to personal ads, from talk shows to self-help groups, autobiographical storytelling has become a central theme of American culture. Visual media offer possible lives through soap operas, talk shows, and “lifestyle programming,” and newspapers and magazines frame their stories as “personality profiles.” Exploring occasions during which people produce and consume personal narratives, the essays in this aim to expand our understanding of how we negotiate and commodify identity.
An impressive collection of the poetry, artwork, and prose of thirty-six contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and artists. It is an exploration of “the dreaming” that organizes the text, in the sense that individual and kinship relationships to the origin stories of “dreamtime” inform both a resistance to the genocidal heritage of Australian colonization as well as a unique focus for indigenous identity.