Richard Wright

The Life and Times

Hazel Rowley

Hazel Rowley

638 pages | 31 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2001
Paper $22.50 ISBN: 9780226730387 Published February 2008
Consistently an outsider—a child of the fundamentalist South with an eighth-grade education, a self-taught intellectual, a black man married to a white woman—Richard Wright nonetheless became the unparalleled voice of his time. The first full-scale biography of the author best known for his searing novels Black Boy and Native Son, Richard Wright: The Life and Times brings the man and his work—in all their complexity and distinction—to vibrant life. Acclaimed biographer Hazel Rowley chronicles Wright’s unprecedented journey from a sharecropper’s shack in Mississippi to Chicago’s South Side to international renown as a writer and outspoken critic of racism.
            Drawing on journals, letters, and eyewitness accounts, Richard Wright probes the author’s relationships with Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison, his attraction to Communism, and his so-called exile in France. Skillfully interweaving quotes from Wright’s own writings, Rowley deftly portrays a passionate, courageous, and flawed man who would become one of our most enduring literary figures.
 
“Splendid. . . . Richard Wright is well written, prodigiously researched, and nicely paced, a compelling evocation of the man, his craft, and the different worlds through which he moved.”—Michael J. Ybarra, Wall Street Journal
 
“A welcome and illuminating work . . . [Rowley] does an outstanding job. . . . Rich and revealing.”—Megan Harlan, San Francisco Chronicle
 
“A magnificent biography, subtle and insightful. . . . Rowley writes with style and grace, and her research on Wright is prodigious.”—Howard Zinn, The Week

 
Jame Lamar | Washington Post Book World
Thorough and engrossing from the first page to the last”
Darryl Pinckney | New York Review of Books

“In her excellent, entirely readable Richard Wright, Hazel Rowley accomplishes what [previous biographer] Michel Fabre would have liked to do with once-guarded letters, aging witnesses, previously unidentified girlfriends. . . . Mostly, Rowley concentrates on telling Wright’s very powerful story.”

New Yorker

“Absorbing.”

Michael J. Ybarra | Wall Street Journal

“Splendid. . . . Richard Wright is well written, prodigiously researched, and nicely paced, a compelling evocation of the man, his craft, and the different worlds through which he moved.”

Megan Harlan | San Francisco Chronicle

“A welcome and illuminating work . . . [Rowley] does an outstanding job. . . . Rich and revealing.”

Howard Zinn | The Week

“A magnificent biography, subtle and insightful. . . . Rowley writes with style and grace, and her research on Wright is prodigious.”

Peter Byrne | Swan's Commentary
"Rowley is an unobtrusive biographer who has written a well-balanced and thoroughly readable book. It now stands as the best account of Wright's life."
Booklist
"For the first time, Wright's complicated life and work are fully and justly illuminated."
Arnold Rampersad, author of The Life of Langston Hughes
"Tirelessly, imaginatively researched and elegantly written, [the book] examines this enigmatic native son with an exacting but also finely sympathetic eye. The result is a portrait of uncommon penetration and skill--surely one of the finest literary biographies to appear in many a year."
Gerald Early | Christian Science Monitor
"A first-rate biography worthy of its towering, larger-than-life subject."
Robert Fleming | Book Page
"Of the books written on Wright to date, [this] new biography . . . is more informative, comprehensive and insightful than any of the earlier efforts. . . . A superb book from start to finish."
Andrew Strombeck | Studies in American Naturalism
"Rowley has produced the definitive Wright biography. . . . Rowley's work is everything a literary biography should be: a rich, impeccably detailed rendering of the historical and biographical circumstances surrounding a writer's work. Critics and teachers of Wright will find Rowley's work indispensable. Through her careful research . . . Rowley offers readers new facets of Wright as a writer and person, demonstrating above all the heavy toll that Wright's heroic, groundbreaking anti-racism took on his financial, political, aned psychological well-being."
Contents
   Prologue

   1.  Mississippi
   2.  The Whisperer of Liberty
   3.  The South Side of Chicago
   4.  Words as Weapons
   5.  Bastard Intellectual
   6.  Crossing the Divide
   7.  Change of Fortune
   8.  Grappling with Bigger
   9.  Marriage
   10. Fame
   11. Cuernavaca
   12. Backstage and Onstage: The Drama of Native Son
   13. Ellen Poplowitz
   14. The Weathercock Turns
   15. Wartime Brooklyn
   16. A Troublingly Delicate Matter
   17. Daily Life
   18. Preparing to Leave
   19. Crossing the Atlantic
   20. Expatriates
   21. Argentina
   22. Existential Dread
   23. Journey to the Gold Coast
   24. From Bullfights to Lonely
   25. The Lonley Outsiders
   26. "I Am Nobody"
   27. Stepping Off This Earth

   Epilogue
   Notes
   Selected Bibliography
   A Note on the Primary Sources
   Acknowledgements
   Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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