Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The (all-white?) Best American Short Stories of 1977

The Best American Short Stories 1977 featured wonderful contributions from the likes of John Cheever, Joyce Carol Oates, William Saroyan, and Frederick Busch. It features experimentalists, political radicals (including the film director John Sayles), Southerners, Westerners, elegists and mavericks.  But the volume, edited by Martha Foley, did not have one African American or other minority writer in it. (I at first thought "Caldwell Price" might be African American, but he was a white Mississippian. "William S. Wilson" is another name which might 'sound' black but from all evidence he was white like Edgar Allan Poe's William Wilson, not black like the Kansas City Royals' Willie Wilson. I really expected Gayl Jones, whose acclaimed short story collection White Rat was published in 1977, to be in the anthology, and I was curious what other African Americans might be in it, but found neither ones nor anyone else of color. Furthermore, none of the writers have named identifiably Latino or Asian American, which does not mean none of them had that ancestry, but there is no visible evidence of it. If there is a writer included who is a person of color, I apologize to the editors, but I have googled and googled and see nod evidence anyone in the book is anything other than white. This book presumes a liberal white readership and  it was not seeking deliberately to exclude people of color; it just did not see the issue as urgent. Social radicals, aesthetic radicalism, lifestyle radicalism are exemplified in these pages; but not racial diversity. This is precisely why later practices of multiculturalism were, despite the splenetic conservative critiques of them, in fact so needed.