McBride, Dwight A.

views updated

McBride, Dwight A.

PERSONAL: Male. Education: Princeton University, B.A.; University of California, Los Angeles, M.A., Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—Northwestern University, African American Studies Department, 2-320 Kresge Hall, 1880 S. Campus Dr., Evanston, IL 60208-2209; fax: 847-491-4803. Agent—c/o Author Mail, New York University Press, 838 Broadway, 3rd Fl., New York, NY 10003. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, assistant professor; University of Illinois, Chicago, professor; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, associate professor, chair of department of African-American studies. Mellon postdoctoral research fellow, Newberry Library, 1998.

AWARDS, HONORS: Lambda Literary Award, 2003; Monette-Horwitz Achievement Award, 2003; Crompton-Noll committee citation, Modern Language Association, for James Baldwin Now.


(Editor) James Baldwin Now, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Impossible Witnesses: Truth, Abolitionism, and Slave Testimony, New York University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor, with Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise) Black like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African-American Fiction, foreword by Evelyn C. White, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 2002.

Why I Hate Abercrombie and Fitch: Essays on Race and Sexuality, New York University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals such as Callaloo and Modern Fiction Studies.

SIDELIGHTS: Author and editor Dwight A. McBride is a professor of African-American studies and English at Northwestern University. Among the topics he covers in his research are race and gender studies, slave narratives, early African American literature, and the works of writer James Baldwin.

In James Baldwin Now, editor McBride assembles a collection of interdisciplinary essays on Baldwin's life and works from a "heterogenous array of contributors (political scientists, sociologists, literary critics, and communicationists)" that "reflect the diversity of approaches to which Baldwin's work lends itself, illustrating that Baldwin was an amalgam of many things: African American, gay, expatriate, traveler, witness, essayist, to name but a few," commented Douglas Field in MELUS. Divided into five sections covering Baldwin and race, sexuality, the transatlantic, intertextuality, and the literary, the book seeks to defend Baldwin from categorization as a black writer or a gay writer and addresses the many difficult-to-define elements of Baldwin's writing and personality.

Works include Nicholas Boggs's analysis of an obscure Baldwin children's book, Little Man, Little Man, which received only one major national review when it appeared and evinces subtle characteristics of homosexuality within the narrative. Joshua L. Miller examines Baldwin's frequent use of the word "witness" and places it within the context of another often-ignored Baldwin work, Nothing Personal. In a Crompton Noll Award-winning essay, Roderick A. Ferguson analyzes the novel Everybody's Protest Novel and Baldwin's lesser-known essay on homosexuality, "The Preservation of Innocence." Ferguson's essay not only addresses "the question of Baldwin's construction of homosexual identity but also pushes for the reconceptualization of the political and ideological underpinnings of Cold War era cultural politics and the avant-garde around questions of gender and sexuality," observed Amy Abugo in Symploke. Field concluded that James Baldwin Now "offers valuable new insights into several key areas of Baldwin's life and work that have too often been skimmed over." Abugo called the book "a groundbreaking anthology that makes important interventions across a variety of fields and disciplines."

With Impossible Witnesses: Truth, Abolitionism, and Slave Testimony McBride examines the difficulties blacks had in setting down written accounts of their lives under slavery. In essence, former slaves "faced a very difficult project when writing about their lives, for they had to juggle their own truths, and what they wanted their readers to believe as truth, within the mutually enabling and constraining parameters that white abolitionist discourse established," commented Sandra Burr in African-American Review. Abolition had already established an identity for former slaves, and black writers of the time found it extremely difficult to escape from the role already designed for them. The book "will prove helpful to critics and students beginning to explore the unfolding world of early modern black writers," Burr concluded.

Black like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African-American Fiction, coedited by McBride, is an anthology of thirty-six stories by prominent gay, lesbian, and bisexual authors who are also black. The editors seek "not only to unveil a long-standing 'queer' tradition within African American fiction, but also to locate the texts comprising this tradition in the social, historical, political, and literary climates of their times," noted Dwan Henderson Simmons in Black Issues in Higher Education. The first part of the book covers the period of 1900 to 1950, including the Harlem renaissance. Works from Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Alice Dunbar Nelson, and Wallace Thurman, among others, are included. The section also includes what is believed to be the first example of fiction featuring overt homosexuality published by a black author, Richard Bruce Nugent's "Smoke, Lilies, and Jade," from 1925. In part two, covering 1950 to 1980, protest-era authors such as James Baldwin, Samuel R. Delaney, Alice Walker, and Rosa Guy are featured. Part three, covering 1980 to 2000 and the largest section, offers works by authors who wrote within a context of increased attention on gays in America and who "desire to be queer within the Black community," Simmons noted. Stanley Bennett Clay, writing in Black Issues Book Review, called Black like Us "a literary anthology that is both vital and entertaining," while Henderson concluded that the editors "have compiled an anthology that brings quite a few lesser-known authors to the academy and calls for a re-examination of several more canonical authors."

McBride seeks a "clear, distinct, gay black male presence and voice in cultural discourse" in Why I Hate Abercrombie and Fitch: Essays on Race and Sexuality, commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. McBride looks at issues such as homophobia in African-American studies, the role of black men in gay male pornography, and the rage and frustration felt in the black community during the 1995 riots in Los Angeles. The Publishers Weekly reviewer called McBride's book "a truly original work with ramifications well outside of queer studies."



African-American Review, spring, 2003, Sandra Burr, review of Impossible Witnesses: Truth, Abolitionism, and Slave Testimony, p. 150.

Black Issues Book Review, September-October, 2002, Stanley Bennett Clay, review of Black like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African-American Fiction, p. 27.

Black Issues in Higher Education, August 30, 2001, p. 53; January 16, 2003, Dwan Henderson Simmons, "The Key to the Closet: Making Race and Sexuality Matter," review of Black like Us, p. 35.

Lambda Book Report, November-December, 2002, Charles I. Nero, "Wonder and Delight," review of Black like Us, p. 25.

MELUS, fall, 2001, Douglas Field, review of James Baldwin Now, p. 250.

Publishers Weekly, December 20, 2004, review of Why I Hate Abercrombie and Fitch: Essays on Race and Sexuality, p. 46.

Symploke, winter-spring, 2000, Amy Abugo, review of James Baldwin Now, p. 233.


Northwestern University Web site, (April 12, 2005), "Dwight A. McBride."