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Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor

Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Selected and introduced by acclaimed novelist and poet Paul Beatty, Hokum is a liberating, eccentric, savagely comic collection of the funniest writing by black Americans.

This book is less a comprehensive collection of African-American humor than a mix-tape narrative dubbed by a trusted friend--a sampler of underground classics, rare grooves, and timeless summer jams, poetry and prose juxtaposed with the blues, hip-hop, political speeches, and the world's funniest radio sermon. The subtle musings of Toni Cade Bambara, Henry Dumas, and Harryette Mullen are bracketed by the profane and often loud ruminations of Langston Hughes, Darius James, Wanda Coleman, Tish Benson, Steve Cannon, and Hattie Gossett. Some of the funniest writers don't write, so included are selections from well-known yet unpublished wits Lightnin' Hopkins, Mike Tyson, and the Reverend Al Sharpton. Selections also come from public figures and authors whose humor, although incisive and profound, is often overlooked: Malcolm X, Suzan-Lori Parks, Zora Neale Hurston, Sojourner Truth, and W.E.B. Dubois. Groundbreaking, fierce, and hilarious, this is a necessary anthology for any fan or student of American writing, with a huge range and a smart, political grasp of the uses of humor.

About the Author

Paul Beatty is the author of two novels, Tuff and The White Boy Shuffle, and two books of poetry, Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents


Pissed Off to the Highest Degree of Pissitivity 

Sojourner Truth

"And a'n't I a Woman?" (1851)

W.E.B. Du Bois

"On Being Crazy" (1923)

Zora Neale Hurston

"'Possum or Pig?" (1926)

Chester Himes

"Let Me at the Enemy--an' George Brown" (1944)

Malcolm X

"Message to the Grass Roots" (1963)

Langston Hughes

"Pose-Outs" (1965)

Lightnin' Hopkins

"Cadillac Blues" (performed 1968)

H. Rap Brown

from Die, Nigger, Die! (1969)

Sam Greenlee

from The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1969)

Wanda Coleman

"April 15th 1985," "Identifying Marks," "On that Stuff That Ain't Nevah Been Long Enough for No Damn Body" (c.1985)

Hattie Gossett

"yo daddy: an 80s version of the dozens" (1988)

Amiri Baraka

"Wise 1" (1995)

Cornelius Eady

"The Cab Driver Who Ripped Me Off" (1997)

Tish Benson

"Fifth-Ward E-Mail" (2003)

Al Sharpton

Presidential campaign speech delivered to the San Francisco Commonwealth Club (2003)

Mike Tyson

The Wit and Wisdom of Mike Tyson (1987-2004)

(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin'

Paul Laurence Dunbar

"When De Co'n Pone's Hot" (1895)

Bert Williams

"How Fried?" (1913), and assorted jokes compiled by Alex Rogers (1918)

Rudolph Fisher

"The City of Refuge" (1925)

Zora Neale Hurston

"The Bone of Contention" (c.1929).

George Schuyler

from Black No More (1931)

James Weldon Johnson

"B'rer Rabbit, You's de Cutes' of 'Em All" (1935)

Sterling Brown

"Slim in Atlanta" and "Slim Lands a Job," (1932) and "Crispus Attucks McKoy" (1965)

Gwendolyn Brooks

"at the hairdresser's" (1945), "One reason cats . . ." (1968), "A Song in the Front Yard" (1945)

Louis Jordan/Lawrence Ellis Walsh

"Saturday Night Fish Fry" (1949)

Langston Hughes

"Adventure" (c.1962)

Gary Belkin (writing as Muhammad Ali)

"Clay Comes Out to Meet Liston" (1963)

Henry Dumas

"Double Nigger" (1965)

Ishmael Reed

from Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969)

Toni Cade Bambara

"The Lesson" (1972).

Etheridge Knight

"Dark Prophecy: I Sing of Shine" "Memo #9," "Rehabilitation and Treatment in the Prisons of America" (1973)

Kyle Baker

"Sands of Blood," from The Cowboy Wally Show (1988)

Spike Lee

from Do the Right Thing (1989)

Patricia Smith

"Boy Sneezes, Head Explodes" (1991)

Darius James

"Lil' Black Zambo," from Negrophobia (1992)

Lord Finesse

"Return of the Funky Man" (1992)

Hilton Als

"The Only One" (1994)

John Farris

In the Park After School with the Girl & the Boy (1994)

Elizabeth Alexander

"Talk Radio, D.C." (1996)

Erika Ellis

from Good Fences (1999)

Percival Everett

from Erasure (2001)

Colson Whitehead

from John Henry Days (2001)

Willie Perdomo

"Should Old Shit Be Forgot" (2003)

Black Absurdity  

Zora Neale Hurston

"Book of Harlem" (c.1921)

Chester Himes

"Dirty Deceivers" (1948) 

Ralph Ellison

from Invisible Man (1952)

Charles Wright

from The Wig (1966)

Bob Kaufman

"Abomunist Manifesto" (1965), "Heavy Water Blues" (1967)

Cecil Brown

from The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger (1969)

Steve Cannon

from Groove, Bang and Jive Around (1969)

Fran Ross

from Oreo (1974)

Franklyn Ajaye

"Be Black, Brother, Be Black" and "Disneyland High" (1977)

Trey Ellis

from Platitudes (1988)

Harriet Mullen

"Any Lit," "Jinglejangle," "Kamasutra Sutra," "Souvenir from Anywhere" (1991)

Suzan-Lori Parks
Devotees in the Garden of Love (1991)

Willie Perdomo

"Nigger-Reecan Blues" (1996)

Danzy Senna

"The Mulatto Millennium" (1998)

John Rodriguez

"How to Be a Street Poet" (1999)

Darius James

from "Froggie Chocolate's Christmas Eve" (2003)

Prophet Omega

"I Am What I Am" and "Swollen Feets" (dates unknown)

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

GERTIESPEARL542, January 11, 2008 (view all comments by GERTIESPEARL542)
I was trying to find out the meaning of the word "hokum" which appeared in a quote from Groucho Marx. My dictionary did not have the definition so I Googled for one. There are at least two: 1) Synonyms: Nonsense, baloney, bosh, bull, bunkum, flimflam, hooey, jazz, malarkey, poppycock, bunk, humbug, stuff, claptrap; and 2) Hokum is a particular song type of American blues music - a humorous song which uses extended analogies or euphemistic terms to make sexual innuendoes..... Another reference listed on Google was the title of this book and led me to this website.

It appears to me that the 2nd definition more closely identifies the subject matter in this book and makes the title so appropriate. I would be interested in reading "Hokum" sometime.

Other material I know of that may also fall into this 2nd definition are the lyrics to the songs coming from the stageplay "Ain't Misbehavin' ".
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Product Details

An Anthology of African-American Humor
Bloomsbury USA
Beatty, Paul
Beatty, Paul
American - African American & Black
American literature
African Americans
General Humor
American - African American
Literary Criticism : General
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.25 x 6.13 in

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » Comedy Business and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » African American Studies » Anthologies
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor
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Product details 496 pages Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - English 9781596911482 Reviews:
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