Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Strangers in the Land

Strangers in the Land

Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America

Eric J. Sundquist

ISBN 9780674030695

Publication date: 02/28/2009

In a culture deeply divided along ethnic lines, the idea that the relationship between blacks and Jews was once thought special—indeed, critical to the cause of civil rights—might seem strange. Yet the importance of blacks for Jews and Jews for blacks in conceiving of themselves as Americans, when both remained outsiders to the privileges of full citizenship, is a matter of voluminous but perplexing record. It is this record, written across the annals of American history and literature, culture and society, that Eric Sundquist investigates. A monumental work of literary criticism and cultural history, Strangers in the Land draws upon politics, sociology, law, religion, and popular culture to illuminate a vital, highly conflicted interethnic partnership over the course of a century.

Sundquist explores how reactions to several interlocking issues—the biblical Exodus, the Holocaust, Zionism, and the state of Israel—became critical to black–Jewish relations. He charts volatile debates over social justice and liberalism, anti-Semitism and racism, through extended analyses of fiction by Bernard Malamud, Paule Marshall, Harper Lee, and William Melvin Kelley, as well as the juxtaposition of authors such as Saul Bellow and John A. Williams, Lori Segal and Anna Deavere Smith, Julius Lester and Philip Roth. Engaging a wide range of thinkers and writers on race, civil rights, the Holocaust, slavery, and related topics, and cutting across disciplines to set works of literature in historical context, Strangers in the Land offers an encyclopedic account of questions central to modern American culture.

Praise

  • Sundquist's mammoth study is a deeply researched and illuminating hard look at how the often positive, often fraught relationship between American Jews and blacks has manifested itself in literature, historical writing, sociology and popular entertainment over the past 60 years. Sundquist's wide-ranging erudition is evident on every page; he's as apt at finding points of dialogue among Harlem Renaissance writings, popular sociology of the 1930s and the later fiction of Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin and Bruce Jay Friedman as he is at discussing 'black responses to Nazism' in the writings of Zora Neale Hurston.

    —Publishers Weekly

Author

  • Eric J. Sundquist is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities and Chair of the Department of English at Johns Hopkins University.

Book Details

  • 672 pages
  • 6 x 8-15/16 inches
  • Belknap Press

From this author

Recommendations