Loads of Learned Lumber

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Darryl Pinckney, _Blackballed: The Black Vote and U.S. Democracy_

AS SOMEONE WHO appreciated and admired High Cotton (1992), I am looking forward to picking up Black Deutschland, but in the nearer term it was high time I read this, published in 2014.

Pinckney's beat as an essayist is more literary-cultural than political, usually, but he's always worth reading. Blackballed surveys the history of African-Americans and the vote, from Reconstruction to Obama, with a lot of attention to the era of the Voting Rights Act. That era, the time of Pinckney's youth and young manhood, was the setting for much of High Cotton, too, and since Blackballed includes several tributes to Pinckney's parents, whose flailing efforts to understand their son make for a lot of poignant comedy in the earlier book, Blackballed will mainly stick in my memory as the book that made me want to re-read High Cotton.

It seems not to be in print at the moment, which I can understand, in a way--despite the title, it's not set in the rural South, and it is not set in a gritty Northern urban neighborhood, either.  It is about growing up black, gay, and bookish with upper-middle-class parents in Indiana, and  thus not the sort of thing that would land you on an ordinary African-American lit syllabus.

It is, though, just the sort of under-the-radar classic that NYRB Classics re-discovers for the benefit of a wider audience (cf. John Williams's Stoner), so given Pinckney's long history with that publication, maybe they will get it back into circulation. With a new Pinckney out, what better time than now?  Let's get on it, NYRB Classics!

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