Books Like Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson | Suggesting Reading

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In Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America (1996), editors Herb Boyd and Robert L. Allen have collected an impressive number and variety of writings by African-American men. The book features more than one hundred entries of fiction and nonfiction works, including slave narratives, autobiographies and biographies, essays, poems, and short stories. Some works are excerpted, while others are reproduced in full. The book also features some previously unpublished writings.

W. E. B. Du Bois was one of the most vocal African-American leaders in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. A prolific writer, he also produced several sociological studies that illuminated the African-American experience. One of the first of these, The Philadelphia Negro: A Special Study, first published in 1899, offers an in-depth examination of African-American life in Philadelphia at the end of the nineteenth century. The book featured groundbreaking techniques in urban ethnography, social history, and the use of statistics and is today considered a classic work of social science literature.

Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, originally published in 1903, was not well received by white audiences, largely due to the book's depiction of the unfair treatment of African Americans. In addition, Du Bois shocked both whites and blacks when he publicly announced in the book that he was opposed to the philosophy of Booker T. Washington, a prominent African-American man who was willing to put up with racism—in exchange for promises from white leaders to help educate blacks.

In Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Herald searches for his song, or identity, throughout the play. In Velma Maia Thomas's No Man Can Hinder Me: The Journey from Slavery to Emancipation through Song (2001), the author explores the African tradition of music and its many variations in the United States. The lavishly illustrated book is accompanied by a compact disc, which includes eighteen representative songs—many of which are sung by the author.

Critics have compared Wilson's play to Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved, which was first published in 1987. Sethe, the main character in the novel, is a former slave, who has escaped to Ohio. However, like Herald Loomis, she is initially unable to bury her past, which includes the loss of her family. This novel can be a tough read, employing extended metaphors and other complex literary techniques, but it is well worth the effort.

Wilson's drama is also compared to the plays of Eugene O'Neill, one of the few other American playwrights to win two Pulitzer Prizes. Like Joe Turner's Come and Gone, O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (1946) features a diverse group of characters who collect in one setting to discuss their hopes and dreams. However, in O'Neill's play, the characters inhabit a barroom, not a boardinghouse. This play is considered by many critics to be one of O'Neill's best works.

Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fences, was first published in 1986. The play is the second work in the playwright's ten-play historical cycle, which seeks to chronicle the African-American experience in the decades of the twentieth century. Set in the 1950s, Fences details the conflict between Troy Maxson—a former baseball player who was denied the opportunity to play in the major leagues because of his race—and his son, Cory, who is offered a college football scholarship.

Wilson's play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), was the play that made him famous and was the first play that he wrote in his ten-play historical cycle. Set in the 1920s, the play features the real-life historical figure of Ma Rainey, one of the first successful female blues singers, although the action primarily focuses on the conflict among Rainey's black, male band members. The play takes place in a single afternoon at a recording studio, where frustrations created by racial exploitation manifest themselves in a violent climax.

This section contains 639 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Joe Turner's Come and Gone from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.