At 7pm on Thursday, February 16th Jean-Christophe Cloutier and Brent Hayes Edwards will discuss the Claude McKay novel they discovered in Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2009. The event will take place at BookCulture on 112th Street and Broadway.
Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-born poet and author who is widely regarded as one of the key literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance. McKay's work influenced Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. He is best known for his poems "If We Must Die" and "Harlem Shadows" and his first novel, Home to Harlem (1928). Until recently it was believed his novel Banana Bottom, published in 1933, was his last. However, in 1941 McKay sent the full manuscript to a novel titled Amiable with Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem to Samuel Roth, a Columbia alum whose papers were later donated to the university. While working as an intern at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, then-graduate student Jean-Christophe Cloutier found the manuscript among Mr. Roth's papers and brought them to his advisor, Brent Hayes Edwards. After the pair confirmed the novel was indeed written by McKay the book made news as a major literary discovery. Henry Louis Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard described Amiable as "a major discovery" for expanding the canon of Harlem Renaissance novels in addition to those of Mr. McKay and extending the known timeline of the Harlem Renaissance because of its later date.