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This chapter discusses how an unusual group of works, featuring a character nicknamed Simple, help us think about the complexities of Black political consciousness. The Simple stories appeared in the Chicago Defender over the course of twenty-three years, and were also collected in The Best of Simple and other volumes. Characters therein debate race and class from the local standpoint of the neighborhood of Harlem and extending into other worlds. Hughes’s movement across literary genres (having written in so many) takes shape in these stories as a question about the porous boundary between realist and imaginative modes, when Black people are pondering the limits of freedom and mobility. And the resemblance between Simple’s main interlocutor, an intellectual narrator, and the author is an example of how Hughes sees himself as implicated. Ultimately, in formalistic and affective terms, the Simple stories advance multiplicity as central to the experience of Blackness.
Dhan Gopal Mukerji and Dalip Singh Saund, Indians who came to the United States in the first half of the twentieth century, write their selves through a sustained relationship to homeland and shift the central problematic of American autobiography. Caste and Outcaste and Congressman from India serve to remind that diaspora is not just a term of identity, like ethnic or immigrant, it is also a spatial term that invites speculation about different kinds of psychic and geographic territory. Mukerji relates to India through spirituality, while Saund does so through politics. Mukerji's and Saund's texts elaborate an America and an India very much in formation, and both their relatively early migration as well as their dwelling in California helps one think through the representational politics of relation, not to large ethnic communities of Indians but to a racial landscape that includes other minoritized peoples.
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