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When Washington Was in Vogue: A Love Story (1926)

af Edward Christopher Williams

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594450,376 (4.23)Ingen
A literary event, this love story was written and set in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance and is being published in book form for the very first time. In the tradition of Dorothy West's The Wedding and Nella Larsen's Passing, When Washington Was in Vogue casts a loving but critical eye on Black high society of 1920s Washington, D.C. A novel told in letters, this sly, humorous story was first published anonymously in the Black journal The Messenger from 1925 to 1926. This is the first time When Washington Was in Vogue is being published as a book. In When Washington Was in Vogue, protagonist Davy Carr has just moved to Washington, D.C., and is a member of its Black bourgeoisie. In his letters to his friend Bob in Harlem, Davy recounts his growing romance with Caroline, a beautiful, sharp-witted flapper who tries any number of ways to get Davy's attention. When Washington Was in Vogue details Caroline's earnest but coquettish efforts to woo Davy; it also chronicles Davy's wavering stoicism as he struggles to admit he's attracted to -- and moved by -- this much younger, darker-skinned woman. Along the way, Davy writes his impressions of race, politics, social mores, and the state of Black America. At its heart, however, When Washington Was in Vogue is an old-fashioned love story. A look into African-American aristocracy in the early part of the twentieth century, this Victorianesque novel about modern romance is filled with the drama and style of one of the most hopeful cultural moments in African-American history. Together with Professor Adam McKible's introduction and Professor Emily Bernard's commentary, this undiscovered story offers a fascinating and memorable reading experience.… (mere)
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Viser 4 af 4
I loved this book. A fun story, fun to read about Washington in the 1920s, and interesting to get it all from the African American perspective. ( )
  emrsalgado | Jul 23, 2021 |
This is a "lost" novel of the Harlem Renaissance. Epistolary novel about INTRAracial politics. Wonderful to read hand in hand with The Great Gatsby. Highly recommended. ( )
  Well-ReadNeck | May 11, 2010 |
Having no idea what to expect, I found When Washington was in Vogue to be a fascinating, first-hand picture into an era that was pivotal for both ethnic and gender diversity. At first, the subject matter is decidedly uncomfortable. I am not the target audience. In fact, having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I was taught to ignore the issue of race because race does not impact how I interact with others. However, with this novel, I not only could not ignore this issue, I was forced to deal with very frank discussions about this very topic.

"What would you say should be the attitude of those fair enough to 'pass'? Should they never go anywhere where their whiteness will procure them better treatment than would be accorded to them if they were known to be colored?" (pg. 49)

Once I moved past my own feelings of discomfort, I found an amazing book that poses profound questions about race and beauty while portraying a picture of Black Washingtonian society in the 1920s. There is a love story thrown into the plot, but for me, it took a back seat to the historical and philosophical questions presented. The epistolary form of the novel was both engaging and enjoyable. I even came to realize what a lost art writing for the sake of writing truly has become.

"What is beauty, and wherein does it reside? That is a hard question to answer, when we think that the mere shadow of a line makes a difference between beauty and the lack of it. But that greater question: What is personality? How many good men have addled their brains puzzling over it!" (pg. 93)

Quite frankly, I have never read a novel that explores such thought-provoking questions with such candor. To me, as a history buff, this is the true attraction to the novel. Questions regarding who exactly defines ideal beauty and how other cultures can impact that definition, segregation, passing as white, living beyond your means, the necessity of learning about other cultures, thoughts on suffragettes and flappers, opinions regarding the Harlem Renaissance, and even political opinions regarding anti-lynching bills that may or may not pass in Congress were all mentioned more than once throughout the novel.

"Wallace brought up the subject of the recent revival of interest in the Negro as a subject for writers of fiction. I say 'revival,' for he was a legitimate subject for such treatment in the generation preceding the Civil War" (pg. 176)

I took more notes and earmarked more pages throughout this novel than I have ever done before or since. There was so much fodder for reflection, it really did change the way I looked at history and at the race issue.

"I, for one, feel very sure that Stribling, Shands, and Clement Wood are merely the vanguard of a small army of writers who will soon lay hands on the unusually dramatic material which has been lying so long unused within the borders of our Southern civilization. Somehow, I feel, too, that Southern white men may handle it better than the writers of our own group. We are too near to it, and feel it too keenly, to achieve the detachment necessary for work of the highest artistry." (pg. 177)

There was a quaintness about each sentence and the picture it painted that I found charming and refreshing. Mr. Williams has a way of making me wish we did not have TVs or computers so that we too would be forced to write letters to each other, write in journals and diaries, and just appreciate the written page much more than it is now. For having been lost, I am very glad that When Washington Was in Vogue was found and republished. It is definitely a treasure worth visiting, both for its picture of the 1920s and the forthrightness it uses to address some very serious topics.
  jmchshannon | Mar 2, 2010 |
When I picked up this book, I didn't know what to expect. But as soon as I began reading, I couldn't put it down until I turned the last page. Davy's experience with love is all too commonplace, not only in love but in life as well. We too often look too far into the horizon, whilst missing what's right under our noses! ( )
  compradore_90ep | Oct 12, 2007 |
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A literary event, this love story was written and set in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance and is being published in book form for the very first time. In the tradition of Dorothy West's The Wedding and Nella Larsen's Passing, When Washington Was in Vogue casts a loving but critical eye on Black high society of 1920s Washington, D.C. A novel told in letters, this sly, humorous story was first published anonymously in the Black journal The Messenger from 1925 to 1926. This is the first time When Washington Was in Vogue is being published as a book. In When Washington Was in Vogue, protagonist Davy Carr has just moved to Washington, D.C., and is a member of its Black bourgeoisie. In his letters to his friend Bob in Harlem, Davy recounts his growing romance with Caroline, a beautiful, sharp-witted flapper who tries any number of ways to get Davy's attention. When Washington Was in Vogue details Caroline's earnest but coquettish efforts to woo Davy; it also chronicles Davy's wavering stoicism as he struggles to admit he's attracted to -- and moved by -- this much younger, darker-skinned woman. Along the way, Davy writes his impressions of race, politics, social mores, and the state of Black America. At its heart, however, When Washington Was in Vogue is an old-fashioned love story. A look into African-American aristocracy in the early part of the twentieth century, this Victorianesque novel about modern romance is filled with the drama and style of one of the most hopeful cultural moments in African-American history. Together with Professor Adam McKible's introduction and Professor Emily Bernard's commentary, this undiscovered story offers a fascinating and memorable reading experience.

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