The Unforgetting Heart: An Anthology of Short Stories by African American Women, 1859-1993



The Unforgetting Heart: An Anthology of Short Stories by African American Women, 1859-1993

This edition

"The Unforgetting Heart: An Anthology of Short Stories by African American Women, 1859-1993." Ed. Asha Kanwar. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1993. xxi+295 pp.

Online access

Table of contents

● Introduction
● Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / The Two Offers (1859)
● Victoria Earle Matthews / Aunt Lindy: A Story Founded on Real Life (1893)
● Alice Dunbar / Tony's Wife (1899)
● Pauline E. Hopkins / A Dash for Liberty (1901)
● Ruth D. Todd / The Octoroon's Revenge (1902)
● Fannie Barrier Williams / After Many Days: A Christmas Story (1902)
● Katherine Davis Chapman Tillman / The Preacher at Hill Station (1903)
● Miss Maude K. Griffin / Guests Unexpected: A Thanksgiving Story (1908)
● Effie Waller Smith / The Judgment of Roxenie (1909)
● Annie McCary / Breaking the Color-line (1915)
● Adeline F. Ries / Mammy: A Story (1917)
● Jessie Fauset / Mary Elizabeth: A Story (1919)
● Angelina Weld Grimké / Goldie (1920)
● Zora Neale Hurston / Isis (1924)
● Nella Larsen / Sanctuary (1930)
● Ann Petry / Doby's Gone (1944)
● Alice Childress / In the Laundry Room (1956)
● Paule Marshall / Brooklyn (1961)
● Ann Allen Shockley / The Funeral (1967)
● Louise M. Meriwether / A Happening in Barbados (1968)
● Kristin Hunter / Mom Luby and the Social Worker (1968)
● Nikki Giovanni / The Library (1970)
● Sonia Sanchez / After Saturday Night Comes Sunday (1971)
● Alice Walker / Nineteen Fifty-Five (1971)
● Toni Cade Bambara / The Lesson (1972)
● Gloria Naylor / Kiswana Browne (1980)
● Becky Birtha / Johnnieruth (1981)
● Rita Dove / Fifth Sunday (1985)
● J. California Cooper / The Life You Live (May Not Be Your Own) (1987)
● Terry McMillan / Ma'Dear (1987)
● Charlotte Watson Sherman / Emerald City: Third & Pike (1992)
● Wanda Coleman / Croon (1993)
● [Author Biographies]
● [Bibliographical Information]
● [Editor's Biography]

Publisher's description

(from Aunt Lute Books website):
The Unforgetting Heart: What an appropriate title! What a stunning collection! These unforgettable stories—from laundry room to ballroom, from Brooklyn to Barbados, from colored folks to African Americans—will sweep into your life with all the variety, verve, intellect and heart of the women who produced them.”
—Tina McElroy Ansa, author of Baby of the Family and Ugly Ways

“The Unforgetting Heart... will make you laugh, bring tears to your eyes and touch the very depths of your souls. Most of all, The Unforgetting Heart will capture yours.”
—Johnetta B. Cole, President, Spelman College

“Often touted as great oral storytellers, African American women have nonetheless been ignored as short story writers. The Unforgetting Heart is a lively historical sampling that will challenge readers, teachers and scholarly views of African American women’s contributions to cultural/literary history.”
—Barbara Christian, author of Black Feminist Criticism and Black Women Novelists, Professor of African American Studies, UC Berkeley

“This anthology will be a rewarding addition for women’s studies collections, as a resource for new discoveries and old favorites.”

“Asha Kanwar has collected some of the best Black female writers of all time, adding to that voices buried under years of neglect. All of them shimmer with a new radiance, and an immediate intimacy…a rare jewel. Its time has come indeed.”
—Seattle Gay News
● "Aunt Lute undertook this project with Asha Kanwar because we think the collection, as a whole, fills an important niche in fiction by African-American women. Because of our commitment to both developing and rediscovering women's writing, we are especially excited to reprint historical works that have previously been obtainable only in limited editions. Of the early stories in this book, published before 1940, most reside in the public domain. We have tried to reprint them here in the forms in which they were originally published. In this spirit, all errata have been retained. This is in an effort to accurately reflect their historical context and reduce the level of modern interference and interpretation" (Publisher's Foreword).
● "Spanning a wide spectrum of culture, history and style, this collection marks the first time that a hundred and fifty years of African American women's short stories have appeared in a single volume. From Civil War period stories by Alice Dunbar Nelson and Francis Watkins Harper to contemporary stories by Terry McMillan and J. California Cooper, 'The Unforgetting Heart' testifies to the rich tradition of African American women's voices and vision" (advertisement in "Feminist Bookstore News" 16.3 [1993]: 9).

Anthology editor(s)' discourse

● Dedication: Arti, Nova and Anne / Sisters Under the Skin
Rosanne G. Potter, my Sister and support / and / Bill McCarthy, friend and guru.

Reviews and notices of anthology

● [Review]. "Publisher's Weekly" 4 Jan. 1993: "In this solid chronological collection, the first nine stories out of 32, originally published between 1859 and 1909, might not have much literary merit; but they are nonetheless valuable for their cultural insights. Several of the writers here focus on the lavish but hollow world of whites in which black protagonists are often self-deprecating and subservient. Annie McCary's story of 1915 is one of the first in which a southern black man is a hero, overcoming his resentment at being thrown off the college track team because of his race. Some of the next stories in the collection turn toward strong black women characters. In one from 1917 that vividly recreates the agony of slave life, Adeline F. Ries creates a powerful ``Mammy'' who gets revenge by drowning the white infant her recently dead daughter had been forced to care for. Becky Birtha's piece is about a black girl blossoming into a lesbian who is defiantly at odds with the lifestyle of the women in her extended family. In the collection's section from contemporary times, the selected writers are more familiar: Zora Neale Hurston, Paule Marshall, Alice Walker, Terry McMillan. But there are some surprises even here, such as Ann Petry's 1944 story presaging desegregation, about a six-year-old black girl's experience at an all-white school. Kanwar wrote Fictional Theories and Three English Novels. (Sept.)" [full-text]
● Chadwell, Faye A. [Review]. "Library Journal" 118.7 (15 April 1993): 124: "This adequate collection features the work of such well-known favorites as Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, and Zora Neale Hurston. The weak introductory essay includes a tangential section comparing the struggles of African Americans with those of Indians, particularly the Dalit community of 'untouchables.' Although it does provide coverage of important writers not found in earlier African American short story anthologies or in those highlighting white women writers, readers may want to consider a collection such as 'Daughter of Africa' (LJ 10/1/91) before choosing this one. For comprehensive American literature collections." [full text]
● Parascandola, Louis J. [Review]. "Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women" 9 (Spring 1995): 67-68.
● Joyce, Alice. [Review]. "Booklist" 89 (Aug. 1993): 2037: "Editor Kanwar's original goal was first to locate, then to translate into Hindi, a wide-ranging collection of stories by African American women. This superb anthology resulted from her inability to find such an existing collection. With short stories selected from more than a century's worth of previously published material and chronologically arranged, it offers a highly effective framework within which to view the experience of African American women. . . . The final entry is previously unpublished—Wanda Coleman's 'Croon,' a scathing contemporary portrait of a performer's lusty and violent downfall. This anthology will be a rewarding addition for women's studies collections, as a resource for new discoveries and old favorites."
● Isis. [Review]. "Ozark Feminist Review" 5.1 (July/Aug. 1995): 10: "Ms. Kanwar has provided us with a noticably thoughtful collection of authors and short stories shown in chronological sequence to 'given an overview of the . . . change in concern of the writers, which reflects the changing culture of a society.' These African American women's short stories will have you cheering and crying and laughing. Three weeks after reading 'The Unforgetting Heart,' I am remembering vividly 'The Octaroon's Revenge' (1902) by Ruth D. Todd. Even though the 1902 dialogue felt stilted to my 1995 ears, the storyline captivated me. So much so, that even now I feel this 'story' is thinly-disguised truth. 'The Octaroon's Revenge' is only one of many stories that left me cheering on the characters. Anyway, people of all colors, and especially women, will be enlightened, captivated and entertained by most of these stories. Folks will no longer be able to ignore the articulateness, thoughtful characterizations and powerful storylines found in short stories by African American women." [full text]

Item Number


Item sets