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Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black Americaby Sharifa Rhodes Pitts
Synopses & Reviews
"Rhodes-Pitts, an essayist and recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award, takes as her title a 1948 essay wherein Ralph Ellison describes 'nowhere' as the crossroads where personal reality meets the metaphorical meanings attached to people and places. A transplant to Harlem from Texas, Rhodes-Pitts began a personal journey into the iconic neighborhood, poring over Harlem in literature and life, reading its empty lots and street scenes, its billboards and memorials for clues to what it means to inhabit a dream (that fabled sanctuary for Black Americans) and a real place (the all too material neighborhood buckling beneath relentless gentrification). Acutely conscious of the writer's simultaneous role of participant in and recorder of present and past, Rhodes-Pitts weaves a glittering living tapestry of snatches of overheard conversation, sidewalk chalk scribbles, want ads, unspoken social codes, literary analysis, studies of black slang--all if it held together with assurance and erudition. Like Zora Neale Hurston (whose contradictions she nails), she is 'tour-guide and interpreter' of a Mecca cherished and feared, a place enduring and threatened that becomes home. (Jan.) Bard, the head of nonprofit advocacy group American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, takes a historical look at the relationship between the United States and the lobbying efforts of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Bard examines these relations over time and argues that many of the political actions taken by the U.S. have been aimed at appeasing this lobby; even decisions surrounding the establishment of Palestine, he suggests, were influenced by lobbyist complaints. To Bard, there's no mistaking the main motivation behind U.S. interest in Arab lands, and as far back as the mid Ã¢Â€Â˜30s, the U.S. recognized the strategic importance of Arabian peninsula oil. Bard examines the lobby's beginnings, going back to 1917 when England's call for a Jewish homeland in Palestine sparked opposition, to their current 'brainwashing' of children ('American taxpayers... subsidize... K-12 education materials on the Middle East that have been created under Saudi auspices') to the 'conspiracy theory' woven by the authors of The Israeli Lobby. A subject this intrinsic to U.S. foreign policy deserves a more rigorous examination than what Bard can undertake, given his position of advocacy. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
No geographic or racial qualification guarantees a writer her subject....Only interest, knowledge, and love will do that--all of which this book displays in abundance. (Zadie Smith, Harper's)
A finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
For a century Harlem has been celebrated as the capital of black America, a thriving center of cultural achievement and political action. At a crucial moment in Harlem's history, as gentrification encroaches, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts untangles the myth and meaning of Harlem's legacy. Examining the epic Harlem of official history and the personal Harlem that begins at her front door, Rhodes-Pitts introduces us to a wide variety of characters, past and present. At the heart of their stories, and her own, is the hope carried over many generations, hope that Harlem would be the ground from which blacks fully entered America's democracy.
Rhodes-Pitts is a brilliant new voice who, like other significant chroniclers of places-Joan Didion on California, or Jamaica Kincaid on Antigua-captures the very essence of her subject.
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