Alien Land

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2010-08-03 02:51Z by Steven

Alien Land

Northeastern University Press
2006 (Originally published in 1949 by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.)
336 pages
1 illus. 5 1/2 x 8″
ISBN-13: 978-1-55553-657-2
ISBN-10: 1-55553-657-3

Willard Savoy (1916-1976)

Introduction by:
Robert Burns Stepto, Professor of African American Studies, English and American Studies
Yale University

Alien Land is the passionate and haunting story of a light-skinned black man who can pass as white in mid-twentieth-century America. As a spiritually tormented child and young adult caught between two worlds in a segregated society, Kern Roberts puzzles over racism and agonizes over “why he’s a nigger.” As a teenager studying at the exclusive Evans Academy in Vermont, Kern “passes” until a classmate maliciously exposes him. Anguished and resentful, he throws himself into working for the Freedom League in Washington, D.C., the civil rights organization of which his father, a prominent black attorney, is national president. In 1934 Kern starts college in an “alien land,” the Jim Crow South. Exposed to horrifying racially motivated crimes, prejudice, and contempt, Kern necessarily plays the submissive “nigger” until, terrorized, he renounces his race and his father, returning to Vermont to live as a white man with his white grandmother. Ultimately he comes to terms with his biracial identity, finds peace in his marriage to a white woman, and reconciles with his father.

Robert Burns Stepto’s keen introduction firmly situates Alien Land in the line of African American novels that treat the issue of identity through the motif of passing. Originally published in cloth in 1949 to national acclaim, the full text of this remarkable novel is finally available in paperback.

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