Africanism and Authenticity traces the continuing influence of West African women's traditions and societies on late-twentieth-century literature by African-American women. The first half of the book focuses on how these influences permeate both theme and imagery in novels by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, and Gloria Naylor. The second half focuses on recent neo-slave narratives as works that sprang from the African experience rather than works that merely parallel the original slave narratives. Levin is one of the first writers to discuss Toni Morrison's Paradise and Gloria Naylor's Men of Brewster Place. Amy Levin's study is the first to focus so explicitly on the importance of West African women's traditions in contemporary writing by African-American women. Levin challenges feminist studies of these writings by revealing the extent to which those studies remain Eurocentric, even as they question Afrocentric readings that draw only on African male traditions as if they were the same as women's practices. In addressing these issues, Africanism and Authenticity helps to refine the current discussion of literary authenticity and documents a distinctive tradition that will be helpful to all future studies of African-American women's writing.
Amy K. Levin is director of the Women's Studies Program and associate professor of English at Northern Illinois University. She is the author of The Suppressed Sister: A Relationship in Novels by Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century British Women.