Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Richard Wright: Making the Wright Connection

If you've never read any work by Richard Wright, or if you are looking for a resource to indulge your appreciation of Wright, here is a website dedicated to all things Richard Wright: the Wright Connection.

Administered by the Project on the History of Black Writing at University of Kansas (Department of English), the Wright Connection website is an online community of teachers and scholars that discusses teaching strategies, theories and new books and material about Wright's work.

You might do well to explore it as a first step toward reading Black Boy (Wright's autobiographical narrative), Native Son (Wright's magnum opus novel), Uncle Tom's Children (short stories) or any other book or even haiku written by Richard Wright.

I was pleased last semester by how much some of my students were impressed with an excerpt of Black Boy (reprinted in an anthology) called "The Library."

The excerpt describes an episode of Wright's life in the segregated south, when Blacks were not allowed to use the public library. To get around the restriction, Wright convinces a white male co-worker to write a note to the librarian that says Wright is taking out books for the co-worker. That ruse is how Richard Wright gained access to literature by H.L. Mencken, and novelists such as Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, Alexander Dumas and Theodore Dreiser, among many others, whose skill at employing distinct points of view in their narratives shaped his early imagination as a writer.

If you've read Richard Wright, what is your impression of his work? Which of his works impressed you the most?

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