A brilliant exploration of the complexities of race in nineteenth-century America
Darktown Strutters is the story of Jim Crow, a remarkable dancer, born in slavery, who performs in minstrel shows, South and North, during the furious times of pre- and post- Civil War America. Touching, harrowing, and inspiring, Darktown Strutters is a unique novel of courage and pride from the author of Tragic Magic.
"Anybody who thinks an historical novel about blackface minstrel days is 'merely' historical hasn't been paying attention to Jim Carrey's The Mask, TV's In Living Color, rapper Biz Markie, or much of the rest of U.S. popular culture today. . . . The legacy of blackface shines all around us, and we've still barely begun to tackle its wiles. This is why Wesley Brown's novel Darktown Strutters, an often profound meditation on performance, masking, identity, and equality in the American skin game, is so welcome and refreshing. Written in the surreal spirit of minstrelsy itself, peppered with wit and lancing dialogue, Darktown Strutters is a novel of ideas devoted to exploring the complex fate of black and white Americans caught, as ever, in a racial history they can neither surmount nor escape."—Eric Lott, African American Review
"Brown has created a vivid, disturbing work of the historical imagination."—New York Times Book Review
"Darktown Strutters cuts to the cruel center of American racialism. Wesley Brown's traveling minstrel show is where the symbolism of skin color establishes public meaning and private identity the way a funhouse mirror measures height and weight. Like Melville's The Confidence Man, this is a scary book, and mordantly funny, too. We all look ridiculous in it and, sad to say, instantly recognizable."—Russell Banks