The Annotated African American Folktales

Liveright: Norton. Nov. 2017. 752p. ed. by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. & . photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780871407535. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780871407566. LIT
Coeditors Gates (Alphonse Fletcher Univ. Professor, Harvard Univ.; Finding Your Roots: The Official Companion to the PBS Series) and Tatar (John L. Loeb Professor of Folklore & Mythology, Harvard Univ.; The Classic Fairy Tales) present an engaging and entertaining collection of folktales that illustrates the ability of storytelling to inspire, advise, and preserve cultural heritage. A pervasive theme of many of the selected stories is the transformative power of language: to outwit enemies and elude pursuers, to teach moral lessons and effect escapes, to explain the incomprehensible and endure the unendurable. Introductory materials for the entire book and each section of stories provide an overview of the history of the collection and preservation of African American folktales, as well as examine common narrative motifs and their antecedents in African folklore. Brer Rabbit is reclaimed from Joel Chandler Harris and Walt Disney, and the pivotal contributions of Zora Neale Hurston in gathering and contextualizing folktales is also highlighted. Survival, both physical and spiritual, is the reality that underpins these stories, as is resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity.
VERDICT This valuable and much-needed anthology is highly recommended for readers interested in folklore and African American history.
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