Richard Jean SoApr 16, 2021
A Data History of Racial Inequality and Postwar Fiction
Columbia University Press 2020
What is the story of race in American fiction? In Redlining Culture: A Data History of Racial Inequality and Postwar Fiction (Columbia University Press, 2020), Richard Jean So, an assistant professor of English in the Department of English at McGill University, uses computational and quantitative methods, alongside close textual analysis, to demonstrate the institutional whiteness of the US publishing industry. Even as the rise of multiculturalism has been celebrated in American fiction, So shows how publishing houses, reviewers, prize givers, and audiences still focused on a minority of Minority authors, with little evidence of change during the second half of the twentieth century. Moreover, although as the struggle for recognition seemed to be won within universities, the literary world continued to exclude authors of colour. In addition, the book engages with, and draws inspiration from, the work and career of Toni Morrison, offering findings that will engage across both the humanities and social sciences. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in race and literature, along with anyone interested in explaining and understanding why race continues to be essential to understanding contemporary culture.
Dave O'Brien is Chancellor's Fellow, Cultural and Creative Industries, at the University of Edinburgh's College of Art.