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Everything But the Burden


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About the Author

A cultural critic for The Village Voice, GREG TATE is also the author of Flyboy in the Buttermilk and contributes regularly to national publications such as Rolling Stone, VIBE, and the New York Times. In addition, he helped found the Black Rock Coalition, produced two albums on his own label, and composed a libretto that was performed at the Apollo Theater. He lives in New York City.


There's an old remark to the effect that if you toss a Harvard boy in a locked room with a ghetto kid for a month, well, who'll come out sounding like whom? This collection, edited by Village Voice critic Tate (Flyboy in the Buttermilk), attempts a sociology of that transaction, as repeated perpetually throughout American culture. Contributors including Carl Hancock-Rux (on Eminem), Hilton Als (on Richard Pryor) and Renee Green (on a complex of film and social theory) advance considerations more specifically directed than Norman Mailer's classic "The White Negro." (On sale Jan. 14)

How does the majority, dominant, power-holding culture appropriate elements of the disenfranchised minority culture? In myriad ways, according to this collection of new essays edited by Village Voice writer Tate. From Picasso and Pollock to Steely Dan and Eminem, the white imitation of black ways has profoundly "colored" Western culture. Despite the book's subtitle, this work is as much about the varied emotional and intellectual responses of black thinkers to this phenomenon as it is about cultural appropriation per se. Ranging from Hilton Als to Jonathan Lethem, the contributors include professors, artists, musicians, and writers, and their essays embrace research (on the Left and the "Negro Question"), theory (on the primal history of thugs), and personal reflection (whether an impassioned account of sexual jealousy or reserved observations on James Brown and Malian youth), plus snippets of verse and drama. The degree of formality in the language varies enough to be distracting. The collection's stylistic diversity and idiosyncratic selection of topics create a provocative, if rather trying, reading experience. Recommended for substantial academic and public collections on race and American culture.-Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Worthington Libs., OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"For some reason or maybe for none I put Marvin Gaye's What's Going On in my car CD and took myself back to the Sixties and projected myself with that same music on up to Mars. Whatever else Black Americans may be we have defined the past. It is our experience with capture, enslavement, emancipation, segregation, and redemption that will celebrate this living and save our souls. We will define the future. It is our willingness to forgive that both perplexes and confounds those who think they can braid their hair or drop their pants and know something about the splendor of being who we are. EVERYTHING BUT THE BURDEN looks through both a telescope and a mirror. The images reflect and rebound. Sure they will take Gaye's anguish and make a commercial out of it for Radio Shack just like they took So You Want a Revolution to tell you to buy Nikes. But we're still here, still laughing, still loving, still deciding what looks good and what sounds right. We're still hugging ourselves, still making joyful noise. Still finding a way to be human and humane. It is not, after all, the blackness that has caused our loss of vision making us turn and turn in this tunnel of despair; it is the blackness that is showing us a way out."
-Nikki Giovanni, Poet

"While whites have long been ripping off black culture, there is something new under the sun. Greg Tate has put together an impressive collection of essays, an interview and even poetry that puts its collective finger on the new white piracy. A must read for anyone interested in the intersection of race and contemporary American culture."
-Dalton Conley, author of HONKY

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