"The living is (not) easy : inverting African American dreams deferred in the literary careers of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Dorothy West, 1900-1995
Griffin, Erica Lorraine
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Often considered champions of Black bourgeois values, authors Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Dorothy West examine issues in their work that go beyond those of socioeconomic status and ultimately address their own personal and professional challenges. Hopkins became literary editor of the Colored American Magazine from 1903-04. Fauset held a similar position at The Crisis from 1919 to 1926 and co-founded the short-lived children’s magazine The Brownies’ Book (1919-20). Dorothy West founded both Challenge (1934) and New Challenge (1937) magazines. Despite their admirable efforts to publish both established and unknown writers at each publication, these women, professional authors in their own right, were all destined to forfeit their powerful positions because of gender and political pressure. Not surprisingly, each editor’s creative and journalistic writing reveals her awareness of the importance of mentoring, as does her professional maneuvering and contact with the authors she supported. Themes and images such as the heroic spirit, the romantic quest, and the inner child emerge in their novels and lesser-known magazine fiction, the latter of which is the focus of this study. Hopkins’s characters are of the good-or-evil variety, and the former always overthrows the latter in the name of justice. Fauset’s characters are often naive youngsters who seek grand, romantic adventures and ultimately acknowledge the gritty reality that defers their dreams. West’s child characters are generally wiser than their dreamy-eyed parents, fathers in particular. Adult characters are often emotionally childlike and embrace their inner innocence. In their professional lives, these women displayed similar traits. They show heroism in the face of conflict, a romantic-turned- realistic attitude in the male-dominated world of publishing, and a deep concern, one that is at once parental and childishly optimistic, for the welfare of future writers of color. They ultimately invert their deferred dreams of professional success into positive mentoring experiences.
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