Talking Book

Mr. Chesnutt, define “fiction”


Now, in this moment, I am more solemn to remember that you were unable to attend the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester. This invite I sent was given to you much later in our careers as publishers, but I do have a question of something you published back in 1903. Responsible is your latest edition of “The Conjure Woman” to make me ask this question. I wouldn’t ask this question, had I not an utmost feeling that your work embodied the souls of black folk.

Why did you allow your work to be labeled as a “fiction”? Fiction is the genre you specialize in, but I can’t help but feel that you practiced a guilty privellege when you portrayed the long, grueling, lives of negroes as 7 short “fictional stories”. Southerners would have been twice as shocked by the stories of Uncle Julius, had your book been labeled as fiction. Hear me out dear friend, I’m sure you sit baffled at this idea, with Uncle Julius and the spider and all. What southerners have looked past upon reading your book as a fiction, is the dull facts.

Foremost, the bodies of negroes were inscribed with whips. Was that pain fictional? Did the ignorant demeanor of southerners only exist in fairytale worlds? Sure it’s too late, but had you attended one of the congress meetings, perhaps you might have thought of my same question. As brothers of African descent, I expect you to see eye to eye on me with this. Do share your thoughts with me, so I can put my concerns to rest.


Yours Truly,




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