Chinaberry Tree by Jessie Fauset. London. 1932.  Elkin Mathews & Marrot. Introduction by Zona Gale. 310 pages. hardcover.


chinaberry tree elkin mathews and marrot 1932FROM THE PUBLISHER - 


This novel by the author of PLUM BUN and THERE IS CONFUSION illuminates the lives of an educated, middle-class black family in the early twentieth century. Set in the small town of Red Brook, New Jersey, THE CHINABERRY TREE focuses on the compelling stories of the beautiful Laurentine Strange and her vivacious younger cousin, Melissa Paul. Laurentine, the illegitimate daughter of a black mother and a prominent married white man, endures a lonely childhood, learning to protect herself through isolation. Melissa, also tainted by the blot of illegitimacy, refuses to be ostracized. She tries to establish her own identity, but her efforts are threatened when she almost elopes with her half brother. As the two women struggle for respect and legitimacy, each of them finally discovers a sense of place within the small black community.




The fine mind and spirit, with the hampering circumstance of the Negro body—hampering because the white neighbor makes it so—is the theme of this powerful and dramatic story of a group of modern Negroes, in which Miss Fauset amply fulfils the promise which made Plum Bun something of a sensation. ‘Miss Fauset has worked out the difficult situation between Laurentine and Melissa with a fine appreciation of the psychological factors in a story that is well above the ordinary. . . She has opened a door on the life of the Negro of intellectual interest and on a society little known to the whites. It is, as Zona Gale points out in her introduction, the life of a great segment of humanity which deserves to be better understood.’ – HARRY HANSEN. Some Press Opinions of Jessie Fauset's previous novel, PLUM BUN – The English Review: ‘We do not know anything of the author, but this American story of hers offers a new theme to English readers and shows accomplishment both in style and arrangement . . .  depicted with real charm, and the little touches of domestic affection in the book are delightful.’  S. P. B. MAIS in The Daily Telegraph: ‘This novel is refreshing, for it impinges on the actual.’ The Times Literary Supplement: "This long, careful novel is written with marked earnestness . . . . the contrast between the sisters' mode of life is illuminative of many matters about which the author feels deeply . . . written throughout with insight and sincerity.’ ARNOLD PALMER in The Sphere:  'The name of Jessie Fauset is not known to me; I approached her novel without prejudice and found that, as a writer, she possessed almost all the qualities I most admire. She writes with great simplicity and directness . . . Plum Bun is' an exceptionally good piece of work. It is unusual . . . it is admirably written, with an apparent effortlessness which is the hallmark of mastery; it deserves to be read and richly repays reading by providing a genuine experience.’ The Daily Express : 'Miss Fauset writes with understanding and sympathy.’



Fauset JessieJessie Redmon Fauset (April 27, 1882 – April 30, 1961) was an African-American editor, poet, essayist, novelist, and educator. Her literary work helped sculpt African-American literature in the 1920s as she focused on portraying a true image of African-American life and history. Her black fictional characters were working professionals which was an inconceivable concept to American society during this time. Her story lines related to themes of racial discrimination, "passing", and feminism. From 1919 to 1926, Fauset's position as literary editor of The Crisis, a NAACP magazine, allowed her to contribute to the Harlem Renaissance by promoting literary work that related to the social movements of this era. Through her work as a literary editor and reviewer, she discouraged black writers from lessening the racial qualities of the characters in their work, and encouraged them to write honestly and openly about the African-American race. She wanted a realistic and positive representation of the African-American community in literature that had never before been as prominently displayed. Before and after working on The Crisis, she worked for decades as a French teacher in public schools in Washington, DC, and New York City. She published four novels during the 1920s and 1930s, exploring the lives of the black middle class. She also was the editor and co-author of the African-American children's magazine The Brownies' Book. She is known for discovering and mentoring other African-American writers, including Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay.






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