Starting with Ellison’s hardscrabble childhood in Oklahoma and his ordeal as a student in Alabama, Rampersad documents his improbable, painstaking rise in New York to a commanding place on the literary scene. With scorching honesty but also fair and compassionate, Rampersad lays bare his subject’s troubled psychology and its impact on his art and on the people about him.This book is both the definitive biography of Ellison and a stellar model of literary biography.
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In the Territory: 1913–1931
There is no ancestor so powerful as one’s earlier selves.
—Lewis Mumford (1929)
Decades after the blazing hot afternoon in June 1933 when Ralph Ellison, in his first and last outing as a hobo, climbed fearfully and yet...
“Startling, illuminating. . . . [Rampersad] treats Ellison as a man, not as a deity.”
—The New Yorker
“Astute . . . revelatory. . . . Consistently intriguing.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“Illuminating and richly reported. . . . Rampersad is uniquely qualified to examine the Ellison case.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Rampersad is as meticulous as he is graceful.”