Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature

Norton. Sept. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9780393651904. $26.95. LIT
Part-memoir, part–literary study, this book has something for everyone. Griffin (English, comparative literature, and African American studies, Columbia Univ.; Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II) tells her own history, intertwined with analyses of Toni Morrison’s novels, Barack Obama’s autobiography, and other Black literature. Griffin includes excerpts and context from the texts, so readers don’t need to have read them (though Griffin encourages it). The book is organized thematically instead of chronologically, illustrating that the works often mirror contemporary Black experiences regardless of their age. Griffin writes evocatively about themes of joy, beauty, love, justice, mercy, and death, with concise language and varied sentence structures. When she describes her experience of her father’s death, the sentences are short and urgent, matching her worry and confusion; in the chapter on beauty, the sentences become more elegant and descriptive.
VERDICT Griffin offers a personal exploration of literature that’s historical yet still relevant; readers of the works cited will be interested to learn Griffin’s interpretations.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing