For some reason, it’s hard for me to write about how much I enjoy the debut edition of Best African- American Essays without lamenting the cancellation of NPR’s News & Notes. Forgive me for the aside, but there is a connection here. News & Notes, hosted by Farai Chideya was more than a radio news program aimed at the African-American community. By bringing in experts from all over the political and cultural continuum – bloggers, politicians, entertainers, and journalists – the show demonstrated the diversity of issues pertaining to being African-American in this day and age. Unfortunately, in December 2008, NPR announced that News & Notes would be cancelled due to “insufficient levels of audience listeners and the lack of national underwriting.” Of course, in some ways we can find consolation in the idea that where one door closes another opens and this wonderful anthology of essays is one hell of a door opener. (As if one door is enough.)
Guest edited by Debra J. Dickerson with Gerald Early as the series editor, the anthlogy presents essays on everything from Jamaica Kincaids thoughts on Daffodils to Mark Anthony Neals meditation on pain’s place in music. Yes, the writers are African-American. Yes, some of the essays deal with “race” as an issue. But much like News & Notes, the anthology recognizes that black folks have a LOT to talk about. If you would like to be reminded that there really is a myriad of contemporary black essayists – buy this book immediately. If you would like to be believe there is such a thing as “one black voice” – buy this book immediately and be proven wrong.