Thursday, February 19, 2015

Brothers In Exile: Three African-American Writers in Paris


To celebrate Black History Month this year, the American Library has mounted an exhibit that features the three most important African-American expatriate writers of the post-World War II era in Paris: Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Chester Himes.

Triptych from American Library in Paris Web site
Photo credits: Richard Wright, Rue Jacob, Paris, 1949 | Portraits | Todd Webb; Chester Himes, portrait by Carl Van Vechten, 28 Jun 1955; James Baldwin, image from www.autostraddle.com

The name for the exhibit was inspired by the play Brothers in Exile, written by contemporary writer and long-time Paris resident, Jake Lamar. On the evening of February 17, the Library hosted Lamar for a reading from the play and an interview of him conducted by the exhibit's curator, Naida Culshaw.

Jake read to a full house, reincarnating in English what had been presented in French to another packed house at the Théâtre du Rond Point almost a year ago to the day.

Jake Lamar reads from Brothers in Exile
© Discover Paris!

His interview with Naida explored his inspiration for writing the play and the creative process behind it.

Answering an interview question
© Discover Paris!

The display case in which the exhibit is presented consists of nine compartments, seven of which focus on Wright, Baldwin, and Himes. One of them highlights the play, Brothers in Exile. Another contains photos and information about four female writers: Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Terry McMillan.

Chester Himes: Brothers in Exile exhibit
© Discover Paris!

Brothers in Exile: Brothers in Exile exhibit
© Discover Paris!

Women authors: Brothers in Exile exhibit
© Discover Paris!

When asked why she selected "Brothers in Exile" as the topic for this year's Black History Month exhibit, Naida responded:

After curating several exhibits focused on historical experiences of African Americans inside the United States – such as their roles in the civil war, the legendary Negro baseball league, and the many stories of blacks in the Wild West – I was looking for a topic where being both an expat and an African American played a role.

Around that time I became aware of a reading at the American University of Paris featuring Jake Lamar which mentioned his play. It only took reviewing the synopsis of the play to confirm this was the next topic! I contacted Jake and he was open to the idea, so we went from there.

During the interview, Jake was pleased to announce that the radio station France Culture will produce Brothers in Exile as part of its Fiction / Théâtre et Companie series. Laurence Courtois, the literary advisor for Théâtre et Companie, will direct the audio production.

Laurence Courtois and Jake Lamar
© Discover Paris!

The Brothers in Exile exhibit runs through March 22, 2015. The day before it closes, Jake will moderate a literary discussion at the library called "Writers and their Heroes," at which participants will take a close look at protagonists in four seminal novels by Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Chester Himes. Space is limited, RSVP required.

For information about past Black History Month events at the American Library, click on the links below.

Black History Month at the American Library
Black History Month 2014 at the American Library

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Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

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2 comments:

in-fact said...

Thanks for reporting on this Monique! I had wanted to go but couldn't, so Entrée was the next best thin! Cheryl

Nicky Reich said...

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