"Almost certainly destined to be a 'lion in the path' to all future work on Jack London."
—Lawrence I. Berkove, coeditor of The Short Fiction of Ambrose Bierce: A Comprehensive Edition, Volume I
"This is an important book, not only because Jack London is an important and often underappreciated writer but because the contradictions and ambiguities about race that marked London’s work continue, alas, to mark American society and politics to this very day. Reading London, as this book so vividly shows, is reading ourselves."
"History seems to have dealt London a bad hand as he's now best remembered as an adventure story writer meant for Boy Scouts and teen naturalists. Reesman knows better. Her detailed explications of London's life and writings reveal the complicated and radical thought behind his fiction."
—Steve Horowitz, Pop Matters
"Jack London's Racial Lives reveals the ambiguity of London's temperamental views of race while making a case that he was progressive and radical in his racial views in some of his work. Was Jack London a racist? Yes, the answer seems to be, but it's complicated."
—John Lennon, American Studies
Why the disparity? For London, racial and class identity were intertwined: his formation as an artist began with the mixed "heritage" of his family. His mother taught him racism, but he learned something different from his African American foster mother, Virginia Prentiss. Childhood poverty, shifting racial allegiances, and a "psychology of want" helped construct the many "houses" of race and identity he imagined. Reesman also examines London's socialism, his study of Darwin and Jung, and the illnesses he suffered in the South Seas.
With new readings of The Call of the Wild, Martin Eden, and many other works, such as the explosive Pacific stories, Reesman reveals that London employed many of the same literary tropes of race used by African American writers of his period: the slave narrative, double-consciousness, the tragic mulatto, and ethnic diaspora. Hawaii seemed to inspire his most memorable visions of a common humanity.
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