“Cooper paints a meticulous and absorbing portrait of McKay’s restless artistic, intellectual, and political odyssey... The definitive biography on McKay.”—Choice
Although recognized today as one of the genuine pioneers of black literature in this century—the author of “If We Must Die,” Home to Harlem, Banana Bottom, and A Long Way from Home, among other works—Claude McKay (1890–1948) died penniless and almost forgotten in a Chicago hospital. In this masterly study, Wayne Cooper presents a fascinating, detailed account of McKay’s complex, chaotic, and frequently contradictory life.
In his poetry and fiction, as well as in his political and social commentaries, McKay searched for a solid foundation for a valid black identity among the working-class cultures of the West Indies and the United States. He was an undeniably important predecessor to such younger writers of the Harlem Renaissance as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen, and also to influential West Indian and African writers such as C. L. R. James and Aimé Césaire. Knowledge of his life adds important dimensions to our understanding of American radicalism, the expatriates of the 1920s, and American literature.
“Mr. Cooper’s most original contribution is his careful and perceptive analysis of McKay’s nonfiction writing, especially his social and political commentary, which often contained ‘prophetic statements‘ on a range of important social, political, and historical issues.”—New York Times Book Review
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