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Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors. (Book Reviews).

FREE WITHIN OURSELVES: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors

Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes

Doubleday; 1999;

"We build our temples for tomorrow, as strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.-- LANGSTON HUGHES, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." The Nation (1926) (from thc poem, FREE WITHIN OURSELVES)

"Good writing demands your whole self - writing freely, without limits, from your unique connections to your world. As an African American, you have incredible riches to draw upon, including a bittersweet history which created a new ethnic group capable of transforming heartache into art." Jewell Parker Rhodes

Author Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes, professor of American literature at Arizona Sate University and recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, offers help to artists and visionaries in Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors Not only is Free Within Ourselves a top-notch writer's guide filled with practical guidance, exercises and resources for a celebration of African American @en it@, culture and art.

"Never (in four years of college or jive years of graduate school) was I assigned an exercise or given a story example that included a person of color.. While the educational system and the publishing world have become progressively more welcoming of African-American authors, there is still little attention to educating, supporting, and sustaining the writing process of African-American authors," Rhodes explains in her introduction. Now, for the first time, Free Within Ourselves offers a step-by-step guide to fictional technique and publishing know-how, tailored to the specific needs of African American writers.

Free Within Ourselves runs the gamut of the intricate process of novel writing from emotional preparation, to specific writing techniques, to timeless sources of African American literary inspiration. Divided into four uplifting and informative sections, this book leaves no detail untouched: Part one: Celebrating Ourselves: Practice writing exercises in a journal in Chapter 1: Getting Ready to Work, and become an avid reader in Chapter 2: Literary Ancestors. Part two: Spiritual Preparations: Be inspired by the writing of Ellis Cose and Irving Wallace in Chapter 3: Unearthing Tales, and realize the importance of never giving up in Chapter 4: How to Keep Going. Part three: Learning the Craft: Perfect your skills in creating character, plot, and point of view; creating description, setting, atmosphere; using an authentic dialogue, dialect and narrative voice; and conveying a coherent theme in Chapters 5-10. Plus, learn how to take criticism in Chapter 11: Revisions and Letting Go. Part 4: Wisdom and Advice from Black Authors. Flip through Appendix A: a reading list of over 100 books which are historically significant to the development of African American fiction; Appendix B: writing resources which include information on how to find an agent and how to submit your manuscript for publication; and Appendix C: essential fictional terms that every author should know.

Free Within Ourselves scintillates the reader with examples of famous writing fragments, as well as several complete stories by the likes of Alice Walker, Terry McMillan and Zora Neale Hurston. The book is further enhanced by heartfelt advice from successful contemporary black writers (including E. Lynn Harris, Bebe Moore Campbell, Rita Dove, and Henry Louis Gates), a bibliography, and a guide to workshops, journals, magazines, contests, and fellowships supportive of black arts.

As Rhodes expresses, "Words are powerful. Artists create the mirrors which reflect and critique the blessings and complexity of being African American people." With the help of Jewell Parker Rhodes, black writers can produce fiction that makes an imprint on African American art and culture. Free Within Ourselves is sure to be the saving grace of black writers taking on the strenuous yet eminently rewarding adventure of novel writing!

Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes is the author of the novels Voodoo Dreams and Magic City, and is the recipient of a Yaddo Creative Writing Fellowship. She is the former Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and a Professor of American Literature and Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Blythe, Patricia
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1999
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