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At Home in Diaspora

Black International Writing

2005
Author:

Wendy W. Walters

At Home in Diaspora

Examines the work produced in exile by writers of African descent

In At Home in Diaspora, Wendy W. Walters investigates the work of Chester Himes, Michelle Cliff, and other twentieth-century black international writers who have lived in and written from countries they do not call home. Walters suggests that in the absence of a recoverable land of origin, the idea of diaspora comes to represent a home that is not singular or exclusionary.

Written with grace and clarity, At Home in Diaspora is a significant contribution to the ever-expanding scholarship on twentieth-century black internationalism.

Carla L. Peterson, author of 'Doers of the Word': African-American Women Speakers and Writers in the North (1830-1880)

Although he never lived in Harlem, Chester Himes commented that he experienced “a sort of pure homesickness” while creating the Harlem-set detective novels from his self-imposed exile in Paris. Through writing, Himes constructed an imaginary home informed both by nostalgia for a community he never knew and a critique of the racism he left behind in the United States. Half a century later, Michelle Cliff wrote about her native Jamaica from the United States, articulating a positive Caribbean feminism that at the same time acknowledged Jamaica’s homophobia and color prejudice.

In At Home in Diaspora, Wendy Walters investigates the work of Himes, Cliff, and three other twentieth-century black international writers—Caryl Phillips, Simon Njami, and Richard Wright—who have lived in and written from countries they do not call home. Unlike other authors in exile, those of the African diaspora are doubly displaced, first by the discrimination they faced at home and again by their life abroad. Throughout, Walters suggests that in the absence of a recoverable land of origin, the idea of diaspora comes to represent a home that is not singular or exclusionary. In this way, writing in exile is much more than a literary performance; it is a profound political act.

At Home in Diaspora

Wendy W. Walters is assistant professor of literature at Emerson College.

At Home in Diaspora

Written with grace and clarity, At Home in Diaspora is a significant contribution to the ever-expanding scholarship on twentieth-century black internationalism.

Carla L. Peterson, author of 'Doers of the Word': African-American Women Speakers and Writers in the North (1830-1880)

Walters explores the ways in which expatriation, transnationalism, and diaspora enabled these authors’s explorations and constructions of black identity. . . . This is an indispensable book. Essential.

Choice

Wendy Walter’s At Home in Diaspora is one among several important studies on black internationalism published over the last decade.

Novel: A Forum on Fiction

Provides rich, intergenerational scholarly dialogues, as well as historically and theoretically informed readings of black cultural practices in the African Diaspora. Walters transforms the black Atlantic into far more than a metaphor, showing how the identities and material practices arising from capitalism, colonialism, and enforced captivity transformed the new and old worlds that spawned them.

American Literature

At Home in Diaspora

Contents

Introduction: Diaspora Consciousness and Literary Expression

Part I. The Fact of Slavery

1. "On the Clifflike Margins of Many Cultures": Richard Wright's Travels
2. The Postcolonial as Post-Enlightenment: Michelle Cliff and the Genealogies of History

Part II. From Discrimination and Insult to Homes in Diaspora

3. Harlem on My Mind: Exile and Community in Chester Himes's Detective Fiction
4. "A Landmark in a Foreign Land": Simon Njami's Parisian Scenes
5. History's Dispersals: Caryl Phillips's Chorus of the Common Memory

Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Notes
Works Cited

Index