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The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction. (nonfiction reviews).

The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction by Jewell Parker Rhodes Broadway Books, December 2001, $14.00 ISBN 0-767-90578-4

If Jewell Parker Rhodes says she never "encountered a single reading assignment or exercise that featured a person of color," she has corrected that oversight in fine fashion with her latest book, The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction.

It includes a wealth of helpful advice for both the novice and veteran writer, especially her emphasis on narrative, voice, researching subjects, use of memories and real-life events, and revisions. Maybe the best feature of this book is its easy, conversational tone that never lectures or scolds but instructs much as a writing coach would. The book helps the reader understand how to improve their writing without condescending.

Rhodes, the former director of a graduate-level creative writing program at Arizona State University, begins the book by discussing the richness and diversity of our literature, most notably our nonfiction. She sees this area of African-American literature as a chance to celebrate ourselves, our community and our legacy. Her words of encouragement to young writers to continue studying their craft and to improve their writing skills despite negative feedback is admirable given that many fledgling writers are crushed by insensitive responses from fellow writers and publishers.

When Rhodes turns her attention to nonfiction writing such as autobiography, memoir, and the personal essay, she not only addresses the guidelines of the different genres but also includes a serious look at the personal revelations and self-analysis required to develop an honest text. To make the point, she uses examples from popular books by such authors as Nathan McCall, Maya Angelou, Lorene Cary, Brent Staples and Houston A. Baker. Each excerpt drives home the message that good writing comes with accuracy, experience and style.

The book also covers how to handle some of the problems that inevitably arise in the publishing world, and it includes a comprehensive list of essential resources for writers.

Her collection of quotes and comments from seasoned writers and essayists, positioned near the end of the volume, offers added inspiration to writers fighting to make their voices heard. The book also offers a reading list that is first-rate, with many classics and some new works as well.

For anyone considering a nonfiction writing career, or just getting published, Rhodes's book is a must. It's an excellent guide from an accomplished teacher and writer.

--Robert Fleming is the author of The Elders of Wisdom
COPYRIGHT 2002 Cox, Matthews & Associates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Fleming, Robert
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2002
Previous Article:Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America. (nonfiction reviews).
Next Article:Do the Write Thing: 7 Steps to Publishing Success. (nonfiction reviews).

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