I was a college student when I first read Everyday Use, by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker. Years later, during my teaching days, I shared this masterpiece with my own college students. Most recently, I had the pleasure of experiencing the story without any concern for lessons, as my book club made our journey through the Black American Short Stories anthology. At every reading, I have found myself astounded by Walker’s accomplishment. To me, Everyday Use offers one of the finest examples of symbolism in short fiction. With a quilt as its center symbol, the story explores themes as complex and weighty as The Divisive Power of Education and Heritage versus Disassociation, while never once abandoning the emotionally charged narrative thread. Black American Short Stories brims with such masterful writing. In my bookclub, the lesser known, Marigolds, by Eugenia W. Collier, proved to be another favorite from this collection.
“The success of John Henrik Clarke’s American Negro Short Stories, first published in 1966, affirmed the vitality and importance of black fiction. Now this expanded edition of that best-selling book, with a new title, offers the reader thirty-one stories included in the original—from Charles W. Chesnutt and Paul Laurence Dunbar in the late nineteenth century to the rich and productive work of the Harlem Renaissance: writers like Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright; the World War II accomplishments of Chester Himes, Frank Yerby, and many others; and the later fiction of James Baldwin, Paule Marshall, and LeRoi Jones (Imamu Amiri Baraka). Seven additional contributions round out a century of great stories with the work of Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Eugenia Collier, Jennifer Jordan, James Allan McPherson, Rosemarie Robotham, and Alice Walker. Dr. Clarke has included a new introduction to this 1993 edition, and a short biography of each contributor.” (From the publisher)