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Alien Land
Willard Savoy; Robert Burns Stepto, intro.



Northeastern Library of Black Literature

Northeastern University Press
2006 • 336 pp. 1 illus. 5 1/2 x 8"
Literary Criticism - American / African-American Studies / Ethnic Studies

$19.95 Paperback, 978-1-55553-657-2



Action-packed and absorbing, a grim but sensitive picture of race and identity in America

Alien Land is the passionate and haunting story of a light-skinned black man who can pass as white in mid-twentieth-century America. As a spiritually tormented child and young adult caught between two worlds in a segregated society, Kern Roberts puzzles over racism and agonizes over “why he's a nigger.” As a teenager studying at the exclusive Evans Academy in Vermont, Kern “passes” until a classmate maliciously exposes him. Anguished and resentful, he throws himself into working for the Freedom League in Washington, D.C., the civil rights organization of which his father, a prominent black attorney, is national president. In 1934 Kern starts college in an “alien land,” the Jim Crow South. Exposed to horrifying racially motivated crimes, prejudice, and contempt, Kern necessarily plays the submissive “nigger” until, terrorized, he renounces his race and his father, returning to Vermont to live as a white man with his white grandmother. Ultimately he comes to terms with his biracial identity, finds peace in his marriage to a white woman, and reconciles with his father.

Robert Burns Stepto’s keen introduction firmly situates Alien Land in the line of African American novels that treat the issue of identity through the motif of passing. Originally published in cloth in 1949 to national acclaim, the full text of this remarkable novel is finally available in paperback.



WILLARD SAVOY, a native of Washington, D.C., was born in 1916 and died there in 1976. In life as in his writing, he was a passionate and active advocate of civil rights. He served in the Air Force during World War II and later while working on Alien Land, as the service was undergoing desegregation. The unfinished novel that was to follow Alien Land was deemed too inflammatory for publication in the 1950s. ROBERT BURNS STEPTO is Professor of English, African American Studies, and American Studies at Yale University, and the author of Blue as the Lake: A Personal Geography (1998), which includes three Notable American Essays (1995-1997). RICHARD YARBOROUGH, editor of the Northeastern Library of Black Literature, is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles.






Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:34:29 -0500