Gates Helps People Understand Their Roots Through Genealogy
Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor and cultural critic, has been so prolific as a writer that the idea of fitting his essential works into a single volume of a manageable size seems preposterous. It has been done, however, in the recently published The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader.
The reader, edited by Harvard literature professor Abby Wolf, serves as a reminder of how accessible, informative and, yes, often funny Gates’ writing can be, particularly compared to other academics. (His description of Black hair care from his memoir, for example, is hilarious and culturally on-point. See “In the Kitchen,” page 19 in the book.)
Many other familiar pieces have found their way into the book, and Gates says he was most delighted that excerpts from Colored People: A Memoir (Knopf 1994), in particular a chapter about his mother and her death, “Walk the Last Mile,” have been resurrected for a new generation. The book is about growing up in a small town in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in the 1950s and ’60s