This book concludes by showing how the authors discussed had used their postwar debut novels to respond to the protest genre. The experience of writing these early books and their subsequent reception clearly marked the remainder of these authors’ careers. By the mid-1990s, when most critics agree that contemporary African American novelists had reached a level of prominence previously unknown, Himes, Yerby, Smith, and Redding were long gone, and most of their books were out of print. Both writers and critics emphasized the disjuncture between their work and the outmoded Wrightian protest novel. Sixty years after the publication of the books discussed here, the protest form continues to cast a long shadow over African American fiction. While African American writers today produce an extraordinary range of work in a stunning array of genres, the novel of social realism retains an undeniable fascination for American readers.
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