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June 16, 2022

2

#Non-fiction Harlem Renaissance

by N@ncy

JUNE

When Harlem Was in Vogue by David Levering Lewis by David Levering Lewis (no photo)

Finish date: 15 June 2022
Genre: nonfiction
Rating: D-

When Harlem Was In Vogue (1981)  ISBN: 9780140263343

 

Bad news:
Scope is too broad….too much trivial info and not enough analysis.
Some chapters were just “laundry lists” of
who ’s who in Harlem’s literature, music and theatre scene.

60 % of the book is about….
NAACP
National Urban League
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) (labor union)
…their leaders and publications.

The Crisis (NAACP, editor W.E.B. DuBois) and
Opportunity (NUL, editor Charles S. Johnson) and
The Messenger (labor union editor, Philip Randolph)

40 %…
Long biographical chapters of writers and decision makers in Harlem Renaissance (read wikipedia and learn the essence)
Detailed reviews about books that were important in 1920s
…but lose their impact 100 years later! (just not very interesting)

Bad news:
Author D.L. Lewis is a 2 x Pulitzer Prize winner for biography
…but I did not feel this book was of such literary quality.
Chapters felt like they were collected from other
publications/books by Mr. Lewis. The book felt disjointed.

Good news:
Learned about “The Six” who shaped and promoted the Harlem Renaissance movement.
C. Cullen, WEB DuBois, Ms. Jessie Faucet, Langston Hughes, Ethel Nance and Regina Anderson.
Listened to jazz musicians (Sidney Bechet, clarinet)…new to me!

Personal:
I had high hopes for this book….but it was not worth the hours I spent reading it. It felt like an info dump. After 50% of the book… I decided to read about the person/book/music on Wikipedia then skimmed the chapters.
Would I recommend the book? NO.

 

NOTE: 16.06.2022 – Feedback to Jinger’s comment:

 

Just what I was thinking….just life in general in Harlem 1920s.
Too much Black elites discussing books and music.

Don’t get me wrong
…some books are classics “Soul of the Black Folks” (DuBois) and Passing (Nella Larson) and of course Zora Neale Hurston…..but NOT interested in the nitty gritty critiques by lit magazine editors.

I’ve read 3 books about the African-American history/scene these past weeks. Time to change gears and select a book that is completely different…and of course make time to watch the Jan 6 hearing on TV….bombshell news today in WP and NYT.
PS:
The Dead Are Arising. (2020) gave me a MUCH better sense of Harlem than in D. Lewis’s book. I recommend Les Payne’s 2021 Pulitzer Prize winning biography ….great read! Pulitzer Prize Biography 2021

 

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 16 2022

    Well that’s a bummer! Looking at the title and cover I hoped it would be about regular people who lived in Harlem, during that time period, and what their day-to-day lives were like.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jun 16 2022

      Just what I was thinking….just life in general in Harlem 1920s.
      Too much Black elites discussing books and music. Don’t get me wrong
      …some books are classics “Soul of the Black Folks” (DuBois) and Passing (Nella Larson) and of course Zora Neale Hurston…..but NOT interested in the nitty gritty critiques by lit magazine editors. I’ve read 3 books about the African-American history/scene these past weeks. Time to change gears and select a book that is completely different…and of course make time to watch the Jan 6 hearing on TV….bombshell news today in WP and NYT.
      PS:
      The Dead Are Arising. (2020) gave me a MUCH better sense of Harlem than in D. Lewis’s book. I recommend Les Payne’s 2021 Pulitzer Prize winning biography ….great read!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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