The Wife of His Youth: and Other Stories of the Color Line

By Charles Chesnutt

Added May 6, 2013

Black literature in America matured over a long period.  Rather than considering the rich potentialities in the subject of race relations, the earliest black writers after the Civil War wrote instead of the plantation tradition. This collection of nine short stories by Charles Chesnutt was the first black fiction to attract the attention of the white literary world and reading public as a serious treatment of social problems in postbellum society. Chesnutt writes here of the Black person’s search for identity in the tumultuous period between the Civil War and the turn of the century. His characters are the mulatto, the rising middle-class Black person, the freed slave; his themes are the tensions of interracial and intraracial living which are still relevant today. The publication of this book, in 1899, and three later novels secured for Chesnutt a reputation as a pioneer in black literature and an important influence on modern black fiction, which began to flourish in the 1920's. His books are not judged on their racial interest alone, however. These stories have undeniable artistic merit: the characters are vivid, their conflicts and solutions are expressed with great poignancy and force. Book jacket image and book description courtesy University of Michigan Press. Used with permission.

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