America was intended to be a place where freedom from discrimination was the means by which equality was achieved. Today, American culture is the most diverse ever on the face of this earth. Recognizing literary excellence demands a panoramic perspective. A narrow view strictly to the mainstream ignores all the tributaries that feed it. American literature is not one tradition but all traditions. From those who have been here for thousands of years to the most recent immigrants, we are all contributing to American culture. We are all being translated into a new language. Everyone should know by now that Columbus did not "discover" America. Rather, we are all still discovering America-and we must continue to do so.

The Before Columbus Foundation was founded in 1976 as a nonprofit educational and service organization dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of contemporary American multicultural literature. The goals of BCF are to provide recognition and a wider audience for the wealth of cultural and ethnic diversity that constitutes American writing. BCF has always employed the term "multicultural" not as a description of an aspect of American literature, but as a definition of all American literature. BCF believes that the ingredients of America's so-called "melting pot" are not only distinct, but integral to the unique constitution of American Culture -the whole comprises the parts.

In 1978, the Board of Directors of BCF (authors, editors, and publishers representing the multicultural diversity of American Literature) decided that one of its programs should be a book award that would, for the first time, respect and honor excellence in American literature without restriction or bias with regard to race, sex, creed, cultural origin, size of press or ad budget, or even genre. There would be no requirements, restrictions, limitations, or second places. There would be no categories (i.e., no "best" novel or only one "best" of anything). The winners would not be selected by any set quota for diversity (nor would "mainstream white anglo male" authors be excluded), because diversity happens naturally. Finally, there would be no losers, only winners. The only criteria would be outstanding contribution to American literature in the opinion of the judges.

All winners are accorded equal standing. Their publishers are also to be honored for both their commitment to quality and their willingness to take the risks that accompany publishing outstanding books and authors that may not prove "cost-effective" in the short run. There are special Award designations (such as Lifetime Achievement) for contributions to American literature beyond a recently published book. The American Book Awards Program is not associated with any industry group or trade organization. The American Book Awards offer no cash prize nor do they require any financial commitments from the authors or their publishers. The Award winners are nominated and selected by a panel of writers, editors, and publishers who also represent the diversity of American literary culture.

For more information, call: (510) 268-9775

American Book Awards
Before Columbus Foundation
The Raymond House
655 - 13th Street, Suite 302
Oakland, CA 94612




Kevin Baker
Paradise Alley (HaperCollins)

Debra Magpie Earling
Perma Red (BlueHen Books/Penguin)

Daniel Ellsberg
Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (Viking)

Rick Heide, editor
Under the Fifth Sun: Latino Literature from California
(Heyday Books)

Igor Krupnik, Willis Walunga, Vera Metcalf, and Lars Krutak, editors
Akuzilleput Igaqullghet, Our Words Put to Paper
Sourcebook in St. Lawrence Island Yupik Heritage and History
(Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution)

Alejandro Murguía
This War Called Love: Nine Stories (City Lights Publishers)

Jack Newfield
The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth, the Mania
(Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books)

Joseph Papaleo
Italian Stories (Dalkey Archive Press)

Eric Porter
What Is This Thing Called Jazz?
African American Musicians as Artists, Critics, and Activists
(University of California Press)

Jewell Parker Rhodes
Douglass' Women (Atria Books)

Rachel Simon
Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey (Houghton Mifflin)

Velma Wallis
Raising Ourselves: A Gwich'in Coming of Age Story from the Yukon River (Epicenter Press)


Max Rodriguez
QBR: The Black Book Review (



At the height of the Civil War, what begins with strong words and a few broken bottles will, over the course of five days, escalate into the worst urban conflagration in American history. Hundreds of thousands of poor Irish immigrants smolder with resentment against a war and a president that have cost them so many of their young men. When word spreads throughout New York's immigrant wards that a military draft is about to be implemented-a draft from which any rich man's son with $300 can buy an exemption-trouble begins to spill into the streets. Paradise Alley is a story of race and hatred, of love and war, of risk and dauntless courage.

"Kevin Baker is perhaps the most ambitious American novelist working today. Who else could--or would even dare to--paint on such a large canvas? Paradise Alley is a powerful book that eschews what's trendy for the old-fashioned literary pleasures: rigorous storytelling, deeply felt observation, and a judicious use of the bombshell surprise. Do yourself a favor and read it."

-Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and The Real McCoy

"Paradise Alley is a first-class work of historical fiction by a master storyteller. Baker achieves an epic and accurate weave of truth and imagination, a seamless saga of cruelty, courage, and human struggle set during the bloodiest urban uprising in American history."

-Peter Quinn, author of Banished Children of Eve

"Ambitious…Vivid…forceful…Baker has carried out his research with extraordinary dedication, familiarizing himself with every imaginable aspect of the Draft Riots…he achieves a hallucinatory realism packed with sensory detail…[Baker] brings home the violence of the Draft Riots with remorseless vitality."

-Adam Bresnick, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Kevin Baker is quickly altering the landscape of American historical fiction.…Baker is a master at charting the conflicting political, social, and religious currents as they course through the city.…Once again, [Baker has] lit a fire under American history and made it burn with a roar."

-Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

"Late last year Martin Scorcese, a great American filmmaker, released a fatally flawed depiction of ethnic America in his huge and highly celebrated film 'Gangs of New York.' Scorcese's instincts were sound enough-to portray American history as the struggle of different ethnic peoples for dignity and security while lost out in our nation's dirty, confused and often violent streets. Somwhere in this process, however, Hollywood intervened; and, as usual, good intentions went to hell. Hence the advantage of Kevin Baker's wonderful novel, Paradise Alley. A far more reliable and consistent telling of much of the story badly conflated in 'Gangs of New York.' Baker's book reminds us again of why he is such a gifted student of the history of American popular culture and shows us how he continues to create beautiful and enduring models of just how these old tribal stories should be retold. If only Martin had been working from the right script."

-Bob Callahan


HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY10022


The critically acclaimed novel Dreamland established Kevin Baker as "one of America's best new writers" (Boston Herald). He is currently at work on the third volume of his "City of Fire" trilogy. He is also the author of the novel Sometimes You See It Coming and served as chief historical researcher for the nonfiction bestseller The American Century. He is married and lives in New York City.



Debra Magpie Earling is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation. She teaches at the University of Montana in Missoula. This is her first novel.


On the reservation, danger looms everywhere, rising out of fear and anger, deprivation and poverty. Fiery-haired Louise White Elk dreams of both belonging and escape, and of discovering love and freedom on her own terms. But she is a beautiful temptation for three men-each more dangerous than the next-who will do anything to possess her. A breathtaking tale of the American West, Perma Red is a tragic love story that unforlds agains a clash of cultures.

"A beautifully written novel about a young woman's flight from love in 1940s Montana...establishes Earling as the literary heir to great American Indian writer such as James Welch and Louise Erdrich."

-Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A startlingly spiritual novel of the lives and loves and heartbreak on a Montana Indian reservation. The characters, especially the stragely destructive lovers, Louise and Baptiste, are so sharply drawn that they will bring tears to your eyes. And the landscape, the richly detailed backdrop against which these characters play out their roles, adds a dimension that borders on mythic...Earling is a truly gifted writer, and Perma Red is a wonder-filled gift to all of us."

-James Welch

"Boldly drawn and passionate."

-Louise Erdrich

"This book was great in all its pieces. In totality, its epic."

-Sherman Alexie

"In the deep wells of compassion for her people, and with her stunning eye for the rituals of their existence, Earling reminds us that the greatest writing is always about matters of the human heart."

-Larry Brown

"A fever of a story."

-San Francisco Chronicle

"A love story of uncommon depth and power, a love story that is as painful as it is transcendent, a love story in which the lovers, like Birkin and Ursula in Lawrence's Women in Love, are unwilling to diminish themselves in the act of joining together but are equally unable to turn away....Earling's superb first novel [has] a richness that transcends the story's time and place but that, simultaneously, brings the larger theme of cultural clash into even sharper focus. Let's hope we hear much more from Earling."

-Booklist (starred review)

Blue Hen Books/Penguin
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014

A Memoir of Vietnam
and the Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg began his career as the coldest of cold warriors-a U.S. Marine company commander, a Pentagon analyst, and a staunch supporter of America's battle against Communist expansion. But in October 1969, Ellsberg-fully expecting to spend the rest of his life in prison-set out to turn around American foreign policy by smuggling out of his office the seventhousand-page top-secret study, known as the Pentagon Papers, of U.S. decision making in Vietnam. Now, for the first time, Ellsberg tells the full story of how and why he became one of the nation's most impassioned and influential anti-war activists-and how his actions helped alter the course of U.S. history.

Covering the decade between his entry into the Pentagon and Nixon's resignation, Secrets is Ellsberg's meticulously detailed insider's account of the secrets and lies that shaped American foreign policy during the Vietnam era. Ellsberg provides a vivid eyewitness account of the two years he spent behind the lines in Vietnam as a State Department observer-an experience that convinced him of the hopelessness of Johnson's policies and profoundly altered his own political thinking. As Ellsberg recounts with drama and insight, the release of the Pentagon Papers, first to The New York Times and The Washington Post, set in motion a train of events that ultimately toppled a president and helped to end an unjust war.

Infused with the political passion and turmoil of the Vietnam era, Secrets is at once the memoir of a committed, daring man, an insider's exposé of Washington, and a meditation on the meaning of patriotism under a government intoxicated by keeping secrets.

"This is much more than a riveting inside account of the political beginnings of America's most dishonorable war. Daniel Ellsberg tells us how some of our most honorable public servants found themselves unable to tell the truth to the President when it mattered most. It is a chilling tale of life at the bureaucratic top, and what profound compromises it takes to stay there."

-Seymour Hersh

"Daniel Ellsberg demonstrated enormous courage during a difficult and turbulent time in America's history, courage which undoubtedly saved American lives on the battlefield and helped to hold politicians accountable for mistakes they refused to admit. His story reminds us that to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship is to always ask questions and demand the truth."

-Senator John Kerry

"This is an honestly and lucidly told narrative by someone who single-handedly changed the course of history."

-Daniel Schorr, Senior news analyst, National Public Radio

"If our nation could absorb its lessons we might all face a better future."

-Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

"The most important expose of Washington since the Pentagon Papers themselves, Secrets is essential reading for any American who wants to understand true patriotism."

-Martin Sheen

375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014


Daniel Ellsberg, a Harvard graduate, ex-Marine, and Rand Corporation analyst, was one of the "whiz kids" recruited to serve in the Pentagon during the Johnson administration. In 1971, Ellsberg made headlines around the world when he released the Pentagon Papers. He is now a prominent speaker, writer, and activist.


Rick Heide has a BA in Latin American History from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MA from London University's Institute of Latin American Studies. He has been a member of the San Francisco Bay Area publishing community since 1968, working twenty years as a typesetter, for clients including the North American Congress on Latin America, Nicaraguan Perspectives, and numerous small presses, magazines, and journals with a multicultural focus. He is an editor, writer, and co-publisher and is working on a book on the origins-political, racial, economic, and diplomatic-of the war between the USA and Mexico in the 1840s.

Latino Literature from California

Here is a fresh, vigorous body of work, ranging from Jaime de Angulo's visions of Spaniards and Indians to the classic Chicano novels of José Antonio Villarreal and Raymond Barrio, and from the nineteenth-century childhood memories of Ygnacio Villegas to the contemporary poetry of Michele Serros.

Under the Fifth Sun collects stories of love, family, work, exploration, politics, history, culture, and survival-fiction, poetry, memoirs, commentary, and drama-covering more than two centuries of Latino presence in California, from missionaries and soldiers to gold miners, farmworkers, and political refugees. Most of these well-crafted and vivid works remain outside the mainstream of popular literature-yet anyone who reads them will gain a better understanding of our collective history and present-day culture.

A celebration, an outcry, a revelation, and a powerful reading experience, this anthology ranges from naturalism to magical realism, from lyric poetry to detective fiction, with works by Francisco X. Alarcón, Isabel Allende, Lorna Dee Cervantes, César Chávez, Francisco Jiménez, Graciela Limón, Juan Marichal, Pablo Neruda, Gary Soto, Luis Valdez, Alma Luz Villanueva, and many others.

"A plentiful harvest…Under the Fifth Sun is not only a Who's Who but a What's What, When, and Why. I salute Rick Heide for handing us a mirror on which to appreciate California's gorgeous brownness."

-Ilan Stavans

"A thoughtfully conceived, thoroughly inclusive anthology that captures the Latino essence of California. Straddling borders, high academia, and a bilingual bohemia that is central to any understanding of postwar America, this is a collection that anyone infatuated with the West should read."

-Ed Morales, author of Living in Spanglish:
The Search for Latino Identity in America

"This collection is a groundbreaking set of voices, aesthetics, and thinking for the reader-actor interested in root metaphors and terms for life in the 21st century. Rick Heidi has assembled a cohesive, timely, and breathtaking choir of literary visions-from 'Las Sergas de Esplandian,' by Ordonez-Montalvo which paints the mythic origins of Queen Calafia (our California goddess) written in 1510, to revelatory texts by Octavio Paz, Gloria Anzaldua, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Cesar Chavez, and Anthony Quinn. The anthology, perhaps the best since Octavio Romano's early efforts in the late sixties to Alurista's feverish collections in Southern California in the early seventies, also offers thematic sectors which coalesce various writers into transformation grids of culture and power such as 'arrival,' 'between cultures,' and 'violence.' This informs and guides us and keeps us from falling into ethnic-lit schticks; we truly become profound voyagers in the California that is now being pronounced outside the official centers of meaning-making. Enter California, with this book in hand, no green-cards or academic papers required."

-Juan Felipe Herrera

Heyday Books
2054 University Avenue, Suite 400
Berkeley, CA 94704



Sourcebook in St. Lawrence Island Yupik Heritage
and History

The 464-page volume is the product of a three-year research and outreach project sponsored by a National Science Foundation grant. A sourcebook of Yupik heritage and history, Our Words Put to Paper converts old documentary records, historical photographs and written knowledge, once collected for scientific or other purposes and stored away in distant libraries, archives and field notes, into a community resource. The book is illustrated with more than 100 historical photographs from the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives; Archives of the University of Alaska Fairbanks; Anchorage Museum of History and Art; and some other collections. Over 80 copies have been circulated within the St. Lawrence Island Yupik communities and donated to libraries, cultural agencies, native institutions, and museums in Alaska and elsewhere.


Igor Krupnik is an ethnologist at the Arctic Studies Center of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Born and educated in Russia, Dr. Krupnik worked for almost twenty years among the Yupik Eskimo people of Chukotka and other Native groups of the Russian Arctic and the Far East. His current research is primary on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, where he is engaged in several collaborative projects with the Yupik communities of Gambell and Savoonga, studying the impact of global climate change, the preservation of cultural heritage, and traditional ecological knowledge of native people.



Lars Krutak received his Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology and art history from the University of Colorado with an emphasis on Native American art and art history. He recently completed his first manuscript entitled "Tribal Women Tattoo Artists: A Permanent History." He currently works as a Repatriation Research Specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution


Willis Walunga (Kepelgu) is an experienced senior hunter, trapper, navigator, and boat captain from the Yupik village of Sivuqaq (Gambell) on St. Lawrence Island. He is also an acknowledged local historian and educator in his native Yupik language and in cultural traditions of his people. He produced several booklets, teachers guides, educational materials and he was the leading author for a three-volume collection of oral stories. He served as senior expert and advisor for the Beringia Yupik Heritage Project.


Vera Kingeekuk Metcalf (Qaakaghlleq) was born and raised in Sivungaq (Savoonga) on St. Lawrence Island. Over the last 20 years she has participated in numerous repatriation consultations with museums around the country and was involved in many efforts in cultural research, education, cultural awareness, and multicultural orientation. She also has held many positions benefiting people in the region and currently serves as an Executive Vice President of the Bering Straits Foundation in Nome, Alaska, to provide administrative oversight to all Foundation programs.

Arctic Studies Center/National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, Natural History Building
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012


Alejandro Murguía was born in California, but raised in Mexico City. His experiences as an international volunteer in the Nicaraguan Insurrection of 1979 are recounted in his second collection of short stories Southern Front (American Book Award, 1991). He lives in San Francisco, where he teaches Latin American literature at San Francisco State University.

Nine Stories

From Mexico City to San Francisco's Mission district, nothing comes easy-in life or in love. Here is an unstereotypical view of a world as treacherous as it is tender, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. Using evocative images from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, "Boy on a Wooden Horse" tells the story of a young Mexico City boy's dream of a better life torn apart by a series of catastrophes. The prize-winning story "El Ultimo Round" recounts the verbal combat of two lovers who wound each other unmercifully until attacked by a racist cowboy. "Ofrendas" resonates with both the irony and healing spirit of Latino culture, passionately celebrated on the Day of the Dead.

Authentic and honest, these nine stories reveal the strength, vulnerability, anxieties, and deepest desires of Latino men, the silenced voice of the barrio.

"Danger, cruelty, lust, loss, blood, death and dance . . . . Couldn't put the book down. So hot I had to smother it in half and half. Murguía's a master of hearts on fire, working his storytelling anvil late at night, in a wrecked cubicle of SF called La Mission. No doubt the hungriest fiction and the most ferocious collection in the last three decades."

-Juan Felipe Herrera, author of Border Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream

"Alejandro Murguía has returned the short story to the people. Though some of his characters are down on their luck, the author has hit the literary jackpot with this one. He's been revered as an artist for decades among the multicultural cognoscenti, and the publication of this fabulous volume will confirm for many readers what we knew all along."

-Ishmael Reed, author of The Reed Reader

"This is a book of rare intensity and transcultural joy!"

-José David Saldívar, author of Border Matters:
Remapping American Cultural Studies

"The nine tales of life in Mexico City and the Mission District depicted ... crackle with energy without losing sight of their narratives...[Murguia's] Mission district is not a hipster haven but a melting pot for Latinos from all over the Americas, and his Mexico City is a thriving cultural whirlwind."

-San Francisco Chronicle Book Review




City Lights Publishers
261 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133

The Man, the Myth, the Mania

Rudolph Guiliani is "America's mayor." He is remembered for cutting crime, taking charge when the twin towers fell and displaying leadership when others were overwhelmed. Named Time magazine's "Person of the Year," knighted by Her Majesty the Queen, he now charges $100,000 a speech and is a fixture on the Republican fundraising circuit. But while Rudy wants to be President, veteran New York journalist Jack Newfield-who has known him for more than twenty years and has had many private conversations with him-sounds the alarm in The Full Rudy, a classic muckraking foray into Rudy's dark places. Newfield talks to those who know him best, revealing a portrait of an intolerant, authoritarian leader whose immense strengths are canceled out by "immense weaknesses of temperament, opportunism and intolerance." As a close friend and advisor to Rudy tells Newfield, "Rudy just has to prove every day that he has the biggest dick in the city, that it's his way or the highway."

"[Newfield] begins the book with: 'Rudy Giuliani was a C-plus mayor of New York who has become an A-plus myth in the world.' The almost 200 pages that follow are sure to warm the hearts of any political consultants who may have to run candidates against Mr. Giuliani in the future. Not that Mr. Newfield is ever mean, or gratuitous. It's just that chapter after chapter--with titles 'Education,' 'Race,' and 'The Opportunist'--the battles that Giuliani would rather have people forget are revisited, and Mr. Newfield writes about many issues the former mayor didn't even bother to include in his own recent book.... This small book packs a wallop, and reminds us that Mayor Rudy was far more interesting than Saint Rudy."

-NY Sun

"Jack Newfield's new quick-hitter does throw a few jabs at the larger-than-life Rudy....Newfield takes us back to a recent time, before everything changed, when the phrase 'Giuliani-esque' meant to act as a petty tyrant rather than as a healer. It seems that politicians, at least, have second (and third) acts in American lives....Giuliani could run against Bloomberg in 2005, calling him too liberal on matters of taxes and race. And he could run for president in 2008, by which time the Republicans will need to expand their base beyond the Christian right. Whatever Rudy decides to do, he will be dangerous. Those who doubt this should read Newfield's book."

-NY Press

"If you're interested in reliving the public career of former New York City mayor and post-9/11 hero Rudy Giuliani, you have options. You could watch this made-for-cable movie starring James Woods, who recently told a newspaper reporter that 'I fought tooth and nail to portray (Giuliani) as the genuine hero that I unequivocally believe him to be.' Or, in about the same amount of time, you could read Jack Newfield's new book, The Full Rudy, recounting how Giuliani, in his two terms as mayor, stretched racial relations to the breaking point; sowed chaos in the city's schools and police department; and turned his back on everything and everyone he once seemed to hold dear. I went with the book. I enjoyed it."

-Aaron Barnhart, the Kansas City Star

"If you're one of those people who think Rudy Giuliani is a true hero...prepare to be proven dead WRONG!"

-Portland Mercury

Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books
161 William St., 16th Floor
New York, NY 10038


Jack Newfield is a veteran New York political journalist. He has been a columnist for the Village Voice, the New York Daily News, and the New York Post. He is the author of several books, including Robert Kennedy: A Memoir; Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King; and the memoir, Somebody's Got to Tell It. He lives in New York.



Joe Papaleo was born in 1925 and grew up in the Bronx. He received his M.A. from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from the University of Florence in Italy. He has been a professor of literature and writing at Sarah Lawrence for over 30 years. He is also the author of the novels, All the Comforts and Out of Place. His stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's, Paris Review, and others. Currently, he lives in Oldsmar, Florida and is regarded by younger Italian-American writers as the father of serious Italian-American writing.


Italian Stories pays homage to the Italian-American experience, celebrating an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx during the 1930s and 1940s, and mourning the loss of this ethnic identity with the migration of subsequent generations to the suburbs. With stories that are both melancholy and comic, Papaleo explores the contradictory desires of assimilation: his characters want to live the life of the average American while maintaining a strong link to their rich heritage. In addition, Papaleo rails against the damaging stereotypes of Italian-Americans propagated by the media in movies and television.

"Until now, with the publication of Joseph Papaleo's collected stories, the Italian-American immigrant experience in New York has been woefully underreported by our fiction writers. But here it is-a generous supply of consistently honest tales, teeming with the intergenerational voices of the Bronx and Westchester, and always full of surprises."

-E. L. Doctorow

"Papaleo's voice in fiction is one we learned to love in Nelson Algren and Henry Roth and Malamud, and haven't heard very often since. It's wonderful to know, thanks to these stories, that it's still out there and singing."

-Russell Banks

"I've known and loved a couple of these stories for a long time. And now there are many more. And all, a great pleasure to read. Their publication was overdue."

-Grace Paley

"Joseph Papaleo long has been considered one of the pioneers of Italian-American fiction, and I am thrilled to see his funny and touching tales collected in one volume. Italian Stories shows us just how many different-and wacky-ways there are of being Italian."

-Rita Ciresi

"The title for this book of short stories is perfect: a simple, bare-bones declaration of his intent. Papaleo could no doubt have worked up a sexier title. That he did not tells us that this is a writer in full possession of his craft, one who doesn't need to strain to catch our eye. The stories tell us the same thing. Whether they are tales evocative of the pre-WWII days in the Little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx where Papaleo grew up, or darker renderings of those whose flight from that Italian ghetto left them both liberated and bereft of culture, or more contemporary musings of the Americanized professor returned to Italy in search of some healing ancestral connection, their method is always sparse, graceful, and instinctive with the ring of truth. Papaleo knows his terrain and conveys it to us in a way that makes us feel we know it too."

-Lawrence Di Stasi


Dalkey Archive Press
ISU Campus Box 8905
Normal, IL 61790-8905

African American Musicians as Artists, Critics, and Activists

Despite the plethora of writing about jazz, little attention has been paid to what musicians themselves wrote and said about their practice. An implicit division of labor has emerged where, for the most part, black artists invent and play music while white writers provide the commentary. Eric Porter overturns this tendency in his creative intellectual history of African American musicians. He foregrounds the often-ignored ideas of these artists, analyzing them in the context of meanings circulating around jazz, as well as in relationship to broader currents in African American thought.

Porter examines several crucial moments in the history of jazz: the formative years of the 1920s and 1930s; the emergence of bebop; the political and experimental projects of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s; and the debates surrounding Jazz at Lincoln Center under the direction of Wynton Marsalis. Louis Armstrong, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Duke Ellington, W.C. Handy, Yusef Lateef, Abbey Lincoln, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Wadada Leo Smith, Mary Lou Williams, and Reggie Workman also feature prominently in this book. The wealth of information Porter uncovers shows how these musicians have expressed themselves in print; how they actively shaped the institutional structures through which the music is created, distributed, and consumed; how they aligned themselves with other artists and activists; and how they were influenced by forces of class and gender.

What Is This Thing Called Jazz? challenges interpretive orthodoxies by showing how much black jazz musicians have struggled against both the racism of the dominant culture and the prescriptive definitions of racial authenticity propagated by the music's supporters, both white and black.

"Among the many books on the history of implicit division of labor has solidified, whereby black artists play and invent while white writers provide the commentary...Eric Porter's brilliant book seeks to trace the ways in which black jazz musicians have made verbal sense of their accomplishments, demonstrating the profound selfawareness of the artists themselves as they engaged in discourse about their enterprise."

-Susan McClary, author of Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form

"With What Is This Thing Called Jazz Eric Porter has given us an original portrait of black musicians as creators, thinkers and politically conscious individuals. This wellwritten, thoroughly researched work is a model of a new kind of scholarship about African American musicians: one that shows them as people who are both shaped by and actively shaping their political and social context. One of the book's most important contributions is that it takes seriously what the musicians themselves say about the music and allows their voices to join that of critics and musicologists in helping to construct a critical and philosophical framework for analyzing the music. Professor Porter's work is rare in it's balanced attention to the formal qualities of the music, historical interpretation and theoretical reflection. His is a work that will certainly shape the direction of future studies. What Is This Thing Called Jazz? is an extraordinary work."

-Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery:
In Search of Billie Holiday

University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94720


Eric Porter is Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Jewell Parker Rhodes is professor of Creative Writing and American Literature and former Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Arizona State University. Her stories have been anthologized in Children of the Night: Best Short Stories by Black Writers, edited by Gloria Naylor (Little Brown, 1996), and Ancestral House: The Black Short Story in the Americas and Europe, edited by Charles Rowell (Westview Press/Harper Collins, 1995). She lives in Scottsdale, AZ.


Douglass' Women reimagines the lives of an American hero, Frederick Douglass, and two women -- his wife and his mistress -- who loved him and lived in his shadow. Anna Douglass, a free woman of color, was Douglass' wife of forty-four years, who bore him five children. Ottilie Assing, a German-Jewish intellectual, provided him the companionship of the mind that he needed. Hurt by Douglass' infidelity, Anna rejected his notion that only literacy freed the mind. For her, familial love rivaled intellectual pursuits. Ottilie was raised by parents who embraced the ideal of free love, but found herself entrapped in an unfulfilling love triangle with America's most famous self-taught slave for nearly three decades.

In her finest novel to date, Jewell Parker Rhodes vividly resurrects these two extraordinary women from history, portraying the life they led together under the same roof of the Douglass home. Here, fiery emotions of passion, jealousy, and resentment churn as the women discover an uneasy solidarity in shared love for an exceptional and powerful man. Douglass' Women fills the gaps and silences that history has left in an unforgettable epic full of heartache and triumph.

"Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes takes us someplace we never knew existed. With insight and depth we get into the lives of these three historical people, only to realize that they are as contemporary as we are. Well done!"

-Whoopi Goldberg

"The story of the fascinating women who loved Frederick Douglass and enriched his life is one of those rare tales that demands telling. In Douglass' Women, Jewel Parker Rhodes meets this challenge beautifully, offering us a passionate, moving novel that explores the place where American history intersects with the human heart."

-Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage,
winner of the 1990 National Book Award

"Extraordinary...[Jewell Parker Rhodes] has put the history of American race relations into the mouths of the women. The first lines gave me that thrilling shock of recognition that you only feel when what the artist has created is absolutely true to what you know as a female human being."

-Pearl Cleage, author of What Looks Like Crazy On an Ordinary Day

"I was completely captivated by these women. Their stories help to round out and give depth to the life of the great Frederick Douglass. Jewell Parker Rhodes has done splendid work in providing a new and completely plausible perspective on an important period of African American history."

-Janet Cheatham Bell, author of Till Victory Is Won

"A poetically imagined, intensely moving love story that transcends time and place. Rhodes writes like a dream...[She] is a master of seduction, plaiting the electrically charged fibers of love and passion into a tightrope of adoration and longing, of sacrifice and satisfaction. Enjoy the high wire act, loving and aching with Douglass' Women."

-A'Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground

"Jewell Parker Rhodes has gifted us with a passionate novel that earns our attention and our reading."

-Joyce Carol Thomas

Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

A True Life Journey

Rachel Simon's sister Beth is a spirited woman who lives intensely and often joyfully. Beth, who has mental retardation, spends her days riding the buses in her Pennsylvania city. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers are her community. One day, Beth asked Rachel to accompany her on the buses for an entire year. This wise, funny, deeply affecting book is the chronicle of that remarkable time. Rachel, a writer and college teacher whose hyperbusy life camouflaged her emotional isolation, had much to learn in her sister's extraordinary world. These are life lessons from which every reader can profit: how to live in the moment, how to pay attention to what really matters, how to change, how to love-and how to slow down and enjoy the ride. Elegantly woven throughout the odyssey are riveting memories of terrifying maternal abandonment, fierce sisterly loyalty, and astonishing forgiveness. Rachel Simon brings to light the almost invisible world of mental retardation, finds unlikely heroes in everyday life, and, without sentimentality, portrays Beth as the endearing, feisty, independent person she is. This heartwarming book about the unbreakable bond between two very different sisters takes the reader on an inspirational journey at once unique and universal.

"An amazing touched my soul."

-Rosie O'Donnell

"This exquisitely written, powerfully observed memoir deserves an enormous readership."

-Dorothy Herrmann, author of Helen Keller: A Life

"Poignant, honest, and uplifting...I was moved to tears."

-Carol Saline, co-author of Sisters and Mothers and Daughters

"Take this ride-you won't regret it!"

-Kathleen Finneran, author of The Tender Land

"I found myself reading more slowly so that the ride would last longer."

-Sophy Burnham, author of A Book of Angels

"Riding the Bus With My Sister will change the way you look at the world."

-Steven M. Eidelman, Executive Director of the Arc of the United States

"Funny and poignant...This is one bus you won't want to miss."

-Don Meyer, Director of The Sibling Support Project

Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley Street
Boston, MA 02116


Rachel Simon is the author of a novel, The Magic Touch, and a collection of stories, Little Nightmares, Little Dreams. She teaches creative writing at Bryn Mawr College.


Velma Wallis is the award-winning author of the international best-seller Two Old Women, which has sold more than 1 million copies in 17 languages. Wallis and her husband, Jeffery, who have lived off the land for much of their lives by hunting, fishing, and trapping, divide their time between Fairbanks, Alaska, and points north. They recently adopted a third child.

A Gwich'in Coming of Age Story
from the Yukon River

Velma Wallis shares the love, loss, and struggle that mark her coming of age in a two-room cabin at Fort Yukon, Alaska, where she is born the sixth of thirteen children. Family life is defined by the business of survival, but it is a time of innocence and laughter, too, as the children escape into a world of play under the midnight sun. But when the monthly government checks come, there is much drinking, and that is when the pain comes out of hiding. Velma follows her own path, a journey of persistence, recovery, reconciliation, and ultimately of finding her own strength.

"Once more, Velma Wallis shows her deep understanding of the traditional cultures of the North and reveals the heart of a true storyteller."

-Joseph Bruchac, author of Sacajawea

"Velma Wallis tells a kick-ass story of growing up Gwich'in. If you want to know the truth about being Indian in a White-dominated world, read this book."

-Duncan Sings-Alone, Cherokee storyteller, author of Sprinting Backwards

"Raising Ourselves is told with integrity and a powerful reality. This is a riveting account of Gwich'in village life, revealing peril and hardship as well as innocence and mysticim."

-Jan Harper-Haines, author of Cold River Spirits

"It has been some time since I read a book that made me laugh, cry in anger, feel elated and awaken in me again the sometimes sleeping, but the always-fighting spirit to be myself as an Indian...the reading [was] an evening of pure joy."

-Long Standing Bear Chief, Blackfoot Nation

"[Velma Wallis] gets applause for good-hearted candor and a good book that contributes to the understanding of a little-understood part of America. She should win something for this book...for its unflinching and courageous honesty."

-Cedar Rapids Gazette

Epicenter Press
Box 82368
Kenmore, WA 98028




While right wing think tanks and institutes were paying their surrogates to announce on the talk shows that black Americans are anti-intellectual, thousands attended the recent Harlem Book Fair, one of Max Rodriguez's many projects. In recent years there has been a resurgence of book buying by African Americans, who are spending millions to support their favorite authors. Max Rodriguez is one of those responsible for this Renaissance. He has worked tirelessly to produce the best of the African American book review being published today, The Quarterly of Black Literature. In every issue one finds interviews with some of the leading African-American authors as well as first rate book reviews and assessments of trends in African-American literature. Max Rodriguez has made a major contribution to American letters.

-Ishmael Reed

QBR: The Black Book Review