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Title: Humor Me: An Anthology of Humor by Writers of Color
Author: John McNally
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Date Published: March 2002
Publishers WeeklyThis book developed out of frustrations felt by McNally, author of the well-received short story collection Troublemakers, when he prepared to teach a course on humor in American literature. He found that minority writers were almost completely ignored. Here, he takes a small step toward remedying the situation. The editor observes that not all these pieces are by writers who identify as humorists, and that the role of humor varies broadly among them. Nor is race the central theme of the book, since a good portion of the humor hinges on more universal themes of sex, ambition and ladder climbing. Among the 10 short pieces of fiction here, Daniel Chac"n's "Godoy Lives" is excellent but more darkly ironic than funny: an illegal immigrant finds himself welcomed by the cousin of the dead man whose ID he is using. The poetry (including pieces by Lucille Clifton and Paisley Rekdal) is decent, but not necessarily chuckle-inducing. Author Charles Johnson has submitted a few funny cartoons, but he doesn't deserve 27 pages worth. Among three pieces of nonfiction, Sherman Alexie's "White Men Can't Drum" and Sandra Tsing Loh's "Daddy Dearest" both amuse. Finally, the one piece of drama included, Jim Northrup's "Shinnob Jep," a parody of Jeopardy, offers darkly caustic comments on Native American life, but overextends the premise. The editor states that he received fewer than a dozen submissions for this anthology, and the mix of poetry, cartoon, fiction and nonfiction he ended up with is finally diffuse. (Apr.) Forecast: Given McNally's multigenre approach, the lack of bigger names here cartoonist Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) comes immediately to mind make this book feel like an academic exercise, despite McNally's best intentions. Look for steady if somewhat slow sales, mostly for campus writing courses. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library JournalThis collection of representative work fiction, poems, cartoons, and drama by writers of color (e.g., Sherman Alexie, Gish Jen, and Sandra Tsing Loh) is very much a matter of personal taste. The initiated are likely to find it full of wonderful hits, whereas others, if they can get into it at all, are likely to shrug it off as basic collegiate raunch. Despite its marvelous come-hither title, there's nothing likely to yank a tendon on anyone's side. Charles Johnson's cartoon comes closest, but the overall effect is like a bad telephone connection; something is being said, but it requires a well-attuned ear to make out exactly what. Several writers have an almost feverish fascination with sex and seem to wallow in life's seamy underside. By now this is hardly new or shocking, merely tiresome in being so commonplace. While this reviewer cannot encourage a general readership, he cannot bring himself to discourage adventurous types whom nothing will dismay. For larger humor and multicultural collections. A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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