Penguin Classics and Others Work to Diversify Offerings From the CanonBreaking News
tags: books, literature, diversity, multiculturalism, canon
When the playwright and filmmaker Kathleen Collins’s short stories were published in 2016, nearly 30 years after her death in 1988, they were called a “revelation.” The stories, deeply moving and autobiographical, had been locked in a trunk untouched for decades, along with a trove of other work, until Collins’s daughter, Nina Lorez Collins, took on the task of bringing them to light.
At first, Ms. Collins said, she thought no one would publish these “literary short stories by an unknown dead black woman.” But in 2016, Ecco released them in a collection titled “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?,” which was met with widespread acclaim. Elizabeth Alexander, in the book’s introduction, compared finding Collins’s stories to discovering Atlantis.
The revival of Collins’s work is part of a larger trend of recently released titles by authors who were previously marginalized or entirely lost to history. Some of these books are being published for the first time ever (like “Romance in Marseille,” by Claude McKay, and “Barracoon,” by Zora Neale Hurston), while others are being resurfaced for new generations, such as “The Street,” by Ann Petry.
The critical and commercial success of these titles is a result of a combination of factors: initiative on the part of writers’ families or estates; changing leadership within the publishing industry; and a willingness among modern readers to engage with unknown texts.
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