Nigger Heaven

Paperback | February 15, 2000

byCarl Van Vechten

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No other contemporary novel received the volume and intensity of criticism and curiosity that greeted Nigger Heaven upon its publication in 1926. Carl Van Vechten's novel generated a storm of controversy because of its scandalous title and fed an insatiable hunger on the part of the reading public for material relating to the black culture of Harlem's jazz clubs, cabarets, and social events.

"The book and not the title is the thing", James Weldon Johnson insisted with regard to Nigger Heaven. Indeed, the book is a nuanced and vibrant portrait of "the great black walled city" of Harlem. Here upper-class elites discuss art in well-appointed drawing rooms; rowdy and lascivious drunks spend long nights in jazz clubs and speakeasies; and politically conscious young intellectuals drink coffee in walk-up apartments and debate "the race problem". At the center of the story, two young people -- a quiet, serious librarian and a volatile aspiring writer -- struggle to love each other as their dreams are slowly suffocated by racism.

This reissue is based on the seventh printing, which included poetry composed by Langston Hughes especially for the book. Kathleen Pfeiffer's astute introduction investigates the controversy surrounding the shocking title and shows how the novel functioned in its time as a site to contest racial violence. She also signals questions of racial authenticity and racial identity raised by a novel about black culture written by a white admirer of that culture.

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From Our Editors

Greeted with a storm of controversy when published in 1926, Carl Van Vechten’s vivid portrait of life and culture within Black Harlem goes beyond its sensationalist title to address the diversity and vibrancy of the African-American world at the beginning of the 20th century. In its seventh printing, this edition of Nigger Heaven i...

From the Publisher

No other contemporary novel received the volume and intensity of criticism and curiosity that greeted Nigger Heaven upon its publication in 1926. Carl Van Vechten's novel generated a storm of controversy because of its scandalous title and fed an insatiable hunger on the part of the reading public for material relating to the black cul...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1.03 inPublished:February 15, 2000Publisher:University Of Illinois PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0252068602

ISBN - 13:9780252068607

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From Our Editors

Greeted with a storm of controversy when published in 1926, Carl Van Vechten’s vivid portrait of life and culture within Black Harlem goes beyond its sensationalist title to address the diversity and vibrancy of the African-American world at the beginning of the 20th century. In its seventh printing, this edition of Nigger Heaven includes both specially commissioned poetry by Langston Hughes and a lucid introduction by Kathleen Pfeiffer describing how the novel’s reception has evolved since first published.