La Vinia Jennings, an associate professor of English, won a Toni Morrison Society Book Prize this year for her book, Toni Morrison and the Idea of Africa, which was published by Cambridge University Press in June. Morrison, a Nobel laureate, was present when Jennings received the award.
Based partly on research trips to Haiti, West Africa, Brazil, and locations in the United States, the book demonstrates how Morrison draws on features from West and Central African traditional religious practices in her novels. An underlying argument of the book is that a collective worldview derived from West African cosmology has influenced both Morrison’s fiction and contemporary African American culture.
The book continues Jennings’ interest in exploring the work of African American women writers. Her earlier book on the writer Alice Childress led her to recover one of Childress’s novels, A Short Walk, which was published in 2006 with an afterword by Jennings. Jennings’ fourth book, At Home and Abroad: Historicizing Twentieth-Century Whiteness in Literature and Performance, will be published early next year by the University of Tennessee Press.
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