Tuire Valkeakari. _Religious Idiom and the African American Novel,
1952-1998_. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2007. ix + 261 pp.
Preface, prologue, notes, bibliography, index. $59.95 (cloth), ISBN
Reviewed for H-Amstdy by Carolyn M. Jones, Department of Religion, University
Re-Shaping the Sacred Through Literature
Tuire Valkeakari's excellent study considers a wide range of literature
produced between 1952 and 1998 to examine the ways that African American
writers have explored and shaped the Christianity that African slaves
received when they came to America. Valkeakari's study includes Ralph
Ellison's _Invisible Man_ (1952), Toni Morrison's _Beloved_ (1987) and
_The Bluest Eye_ (1970), and works by Leon Forrest, Gayle Jones, Ernest
Gaines, and Octavia Butler. She traces the "roots" of these writers'
concerns to African American letters, invoking the works of Paul
Laurence Dunbar, Frances Ellen Harper, James Weldon Johnson, Margaret
Walker, Nella Larson, and others. Valkeakari examines the "creative
re-visioning" and "re-shaping" of the Judeo-Christian inheritance that
African Americans undertook in their expressive culture under oppression
to resist and undo that oppression (p. 1). Her examination leads to her
final questions about home and belonging.
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