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Help Square Books welcome Maryemma Graham and her new biography The House Where My Soul Lives: The Life of Margaret Walker. Wednesday, April 12th · 5:30 PM @ Off Square Books
About the Book
This first biography of poet and writer Margaret Walker (1915-98) offers a comprehensive close reading of a pillar in American culture for a majority of the 20th century. Without defining herself as a radical or even a feminist, Walker followed the precepts of both. She promoted the idea of the artist of tradition and social change, a public intellectual and an institution builder. Among the first to recognize the impact of black women in literature, Walker became a chief architect of what many have called the new Black South Renaissance. Her art was influenced early by Langston Hughes, her political understanding of the world by Richard Wright. Walker expanded both into a comprehensive view on art and humanism, which became a national platform for the center she founded in Mississippi that now bears her name. The House Where My Soul Lives provides a full account of Walker's life and new interpretations of her writings before and after the publication of her most well-known poem in the 1930s in Chicago.
The book rejects the widely held view of Walker as the "angry black woman" and emphasizes what contemporary American culture owes to her decades of foundational work in what we know today as Black Studies, Women's Studies, and the Public Humanities. She was fierce in her claim to be "black, female and free" which gave her the authority to challenge all hierarchies, no matter at what cost. Featuring 80 archival photos and documents and based on never before examined personal papers and interviews with those who knew Walker personally, this book is required reading for all readers of biographies of American writers.
About the Author
Maryemma Graham is University Distinguished Professor in the Department of English at the University of Kansas. In 1983 she founded the Project on the History of Black Writing, which has been at the University of Kansas since 1999. With 10 published books, including The Cambridge History of African American Literature with Jerry W. Ward, Jr. (2011), The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel (2004), Fields Watered with Blood: Critical Essays on Margaret Walker (2002), Teaching African American Literature: Theory and Practice (1998), and The Complete Poems of Frances E.W. Harper (1988) and more than 100 essays, book chapters, and creative works.
"At once a radiant memorial, a clear- eyed portrait and an intellectual history, Graham's biography of writer Margaret Walker is an extraordinary study of an extraordinary woman." -- Paula J. Giddings, author IDA: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching, EA Woodson Professor, Africana Studies, Emerita, Smith College
"An accomplished and tenderly composed narrative of Margaret Walker's life—a moment in time when being inquisitive, creative, colored, and a woman was as much conundrum as an opportunity.... Graham makes Walker's life as knowable as one might have hoped; but it's this biographer's persistent, intelligent, and careful telling that distinguishes this elegant and necessary project.... Here we learn the rest of Margaret Walker's life story—and within this exquisite excavation of her life and works, readers have an extraordinary opportunity to appreciate Walker's gifted presence in the history, politics, and culture of American Letters." -- Karla FC Holloway, Ph.D., James B. Duke Professor emerita, Duke University
"Based on Walker's journals and diaries, unpublished interviews, and Graham's encyclopedic knowledge of Black writing, The House Where My Soul Lives: The Life of Margaret Walker is a lucid, meticulous account of a daughter of Birmingham and New Orleans whose dogged pursuit of distinction took her to Chicago and the heights of literary fame. Walker then gave her life to teaching Black students at Black southern colleges and, in the process, her writing etched a communal folk heritage for people of African descent." -- Lawrence Jackson, author of Shelter: A Black Tale of Homeland, Baltimore; Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius; and The Life of Chester B. Himes: A Biography