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Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers.

Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers

edited by Kevin Young Quill/Morrow, February 2000 $14.00, ISBN 0-688-168760

According to editor Kevin Young, this exciting new anthology highlights the present-day directions in, and diversity of, what many call the "current renaissance in African American letters." Young, a brilliant and much celebrated poet of the new black literati, has gathered together some of the most distinguished young black writers of the post-soul generation in this collection. The contributors, whose work has often been neglected in more mainstream contexts, are steadfastly charting the course for a new American and African American canon. Young chose the year 1960 as the cut-off point for the oldest of featured writers, and titled the book in the spirit of John Coltrane's classic album because, as he explains, "it changed the way we hear and see."

What makes this a stand-out anthology is not only the contributors' willingness to explore beyond "our expectations about what black writing should be," as Young puts it, but the clear emergence of a shared sensibility, one that blends pop culture and hip hop with history and legacy. Young has a fantastic ear and has done an astute job selecting a diverse range of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that push the boundaries--while affirming a tradition--of black literary excellence.

His subjects include a range of writers, from the often heralded Edwidge Danticat, Danzy Senna, and Randall Keenan to the quieter storms of Carolyn Ferrell, Natasha Tarpley, and Darrieck Scott. These authors share with us a wide range of thoughts and experiences, from growing up poor, biracial, or gay to meditations on Sam Cooke, Cleopatra Jones, and the New South.

The weakest parts of Giant Steps are the addition of a displaced discography and Young's somewhat overzealous foreword rather than any richness or depth lacking in the work presented. Overall, Young's anthology is a wonderful introduction to the next generation of writers sure to take their place in history one step at a time.

Jennifer Bailey Hunt is an editor and freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Hunt, Jennifer Bailey
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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