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William R. Nash

which won the 1990 National Book Award for Fiction, marks the culmination of Charles R. Johnson's philosophical exploration and formal innovation to date. Taking the form of ship's log entries, the novel recounts the adventures of Rutherford Calhoun, a freed slave from Illinois who relocates to New Orleans and leads a hedonistic life financed by petty thievery. While there, Rutherford becomes involved with two powerful figures: Isadora Duncan, the proper schoolmistress who treats Rutherford much like her adopted stray animals, and Philippe “Papa” Zeringue, a Creole gangster to whom Rutherford becomes indebted. Isadora learns of and buys Rutherford's debts; in return Zeringue helps her attempt to force Calhoun into marriage. Desperate to escape both oppressors, Rutherford stows away aboard the Republic, unwittingly choosing a slave ship in which Zeringue holds a partial interest.

Aboard the Republic Rutherford is torn between the disparate influences of evil ...

Article

Roots  

Roger A. Berger

This 1976 Alex Haley novel narrates a seven-generation story about his own family. It begins with the birth of West African Kunta Kinte, Haley's maternal great-great-great-great-grandfather, and ends with Haley's own research and dramatic discoveries about his genealogy. Because it purports to be the first African American text to definitively locate an African ancestor and because of two widely watched television miniseries—“Roots” (1977) and “Roots: The Next Generations” (1979)—loosely based on the novel, the book became an immensely popular cultural phenomenon. In 1977Roots received a special citation Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

Haley termed the narrative strategy in Roots faction While Roots is based on what he claims is factual material Haley fictionalizes and enhances the story adding imagined dialogue and incidents to flesh out the story and relay the horrific nature of American slavery The first half of the novel focuses ...