“Race,” Writing, and Difference first appeared in 1986. That Fall, I entered graduate school at Yale University; I still associate the book with those intellectually heady times. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., left the university before my arrival, but his influence was still felt, and we graduate students followed his every move. We also read and debated the essays of his volume with great excitement. The collection legitimated our intellectual concerns and delineated a set of questions that we would pursue throughout our graduate school careers. The volume set the bar high and helped prepare us for the task ahead. These were the days when we anticipated and greeted the appearance of works by Gates, Houston Baker, Jr., Hortense Spillers, Sylvia Wynter, and Cornel West with almost as much excitement that years earlier accompanied the release of recordings by Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Many of us came to Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, and Paul de Man through these brilliant theorists of African American literature and culture. Those were intellectually exciting times: the period also produced Black Literature and Literary Theory; the painful exchange between Gates, Baker, and Joyce Ann Joyce on the pages of New Literary History; Hazel Carby's Reconstructing Womanhood, and Spillers's “Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” Furthermore, through his books Black Literature and Literary Theory, Figures in Black, and The Signifying Monkey, Gates not only provided a theoretical framework for the study of African American literature, he also set forth an intellectual agenda that he would institutionalize in a number of projects, especially The Norton Anthology of African American Literature and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard. In fact, Gates's PBS series African American Lives might be seen as part of this larger project as well in that it demonstrates the fiction of race through scientific evidence without denying its power to determine the lived experience of those identified as black in the United States. Despite the appearance of texts such as Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve (and other arguments for the biological basis of race that rear their heads every so often), few people would disagree with the fundamental premise of “Race,” Writing, and Difference: that race was not fixed or naturalized but instead socially and historically constructed and institutionalized.