Harlem is Nowhere by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
A Journey to the Mecca of Black America

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Synopsis

"No geographic or racial qualification guarantees a writer her subject....Only interest, knowledge, and love will do that--all of which this book displays in abundance." (Zadie Smith, Harper's)

A finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

For a century Harlem has been celebrated as the capital of black America, a thriving center of cultural achievement and political action. At a crucial moment in Harlem's history, as gentrification encroaches, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts untangles the myth and meaning of Harlem's legacy. Examining the epic Harlem of official history and the personal Harlem that begins at her front door, Rhodes-Pitts introduces us to a wide variety of characters, past and present. At the heart of their stories, and her own, is the hope carried over many generations, hope that Harlem would be the ground from which blacks fully entered America's democracy.

Rhodes-Pitts is a brilliant new voice who, like other significant chroniclers of places-Joan Didion on California, or Jamaica Kincaid on Antigua-captures the very essence of her subject.

 

About Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

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Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts's articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, New York Times Book Review, The Nation, Boston Globe, Transition, and Times Literary Supplement. She has received a Lannan Foundation fellowship and the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, and was a Fulbright Scholar in 2007. Rhodes-Pitts was born in Texas and educated at Harvard University.
 
Published January 1, 2011 by Little, Brown and Company. 308 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Harlem is Nowhere

Kirkus Reviews

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The author also explores Harlem through visuals—descriptions of statues, advertisements, signage, even funeral portraiture—yet photographs are her staple, particularly the work of James VanDerZee, whose photos depict “provided an antidote to the destitute, shell-shocked image then attached to the...

Jan 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

The New York Times

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She writes about the Ellison essay that provides her title, “His beautiful, clinical descriptions emit a kind of hostility.” Excellently, she characterizes one of Baldwin’s signature nonfiction moves — the suave shift from specific detail to poetic generalization — this way: “In almost every essa...

Jan 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

The New York Times

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The studio and salon both evolved, Rhodes-Pitts explains, out of Gumby’s singular passion for scrapbooking — his “impulse to compile, collect and curate the detritus of his reality.” Gumby’s efforts ultimately produced an apartment’s worth of materials about the so-called black experience, culmin...

Mar 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

The Guardian

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One evening in September 2000 I attended a panel discussion at Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Aug 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

The Guardian

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The resulting book – in part a chronicle of her own obsessive meandering through Harlem's archived history, in part a record of the unlikely, everyday encounters with the men and women on neighbourhood street corners, in public libraries, at town hall meetings, parades and funerals – asks the rea...

Aug 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

Examiner

One glimpses (through pictures and text) into developmental Harlem, emerging ‘Black oasis’ Harlem, the ‘golden era’ of Harlem, and contemporary Harlem.

Mar 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

The eight essays that comprise the book each draw from a source of inspiration, be it a photograph of a 1920 Harlem street scene, the fictional characters that people the novels of Harlem Renaissance authors, or the "Dream Books" that match anything your subconscious can conjure with a number rea...

Feb 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

Tampa Bay Times

Remembering his move to Harlem in 1917, Jamaican poet Claude McKay recalled, "Harlem was my first positive reaction to American life.

Feb 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

Post and Courier

And her book is crisscrossed by a similar ambivalence toward the very idea of trying to represent what Harlem means, knowing as she does that if Harlem has been a "haven" for blacks, it also has been a "ghetto."

Mar 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

Literary Review

Soon after arriving in Harlem in 2002, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts overheard a conversation between two white men in one of the neighbourhood's smart new cafés.

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Full Stop

Beginning with the premise, quoting from Ellison, who himself is paraphrasing the street-slang of “Oh, man, I’m nowhere”, that Harlem might be unreachable (or at least, to this particular reviewer, unavailable), a premise that places Harlem in the subliminal.

Mar 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

Book Blogs

For a century Harlem has been celebrated as the capital of black America, a thriving center of cultural achievement and political action.

Nov 17 2010 | Read Full Review of Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey ...

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