LITERATURE

Critical Insights: Richard Wright

Salem. Feb. 2019. 260p. ed. by ed. by Kimberly Drake. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781682179178. $105. REF
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With the publication of his best-selling novel Native Son, Richard Wright (1908–60), who had until then worked for the Chicago post office after he’d moved north and then for the Federal Writers’ Project, made his name as one of the most influential African American writers of the 20th century. In 1945, the first half of his autobiography, Black Boy, was published. Essays, short stories, plays, a radio play, and a film completed his oeuvre before his untimely death at 53. In this volume, edited by Drake (writing, Scripps Coll., CA), nine literary scholars present 12 perceptive essays that take a close look at the biographical, sociopolitical, and historical contexts informing Wright’s work, offering a keen, critical examination of some of his key works. Drake explores “The Meaning of Rape” in Native Son, while Beth Bennett analyzes the film adaptation. Other contributors explore Wright’s book Uncle Tom’s Children, his short story “Man of All Work,” and his novel A Father’s Law.
VERDICT High school and college students will get a strong sense of Wright’s life, motivations, and creative output. Readers new to the author, as well as devotees, will take away valuable insights.

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