Ethnic American Literature: An Encyclopedia for Students. Edited by Emmanuel S. Nelson. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2015. 570 pages. acid free $100 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-880-1). E-book available (978-1-61069-881-8), call for pricing.

The world of multi-cultural, ethnic literature is a robust, evolving and rapidly growing field. By its very protean nature it is difficult to capture and analyze but the skilled editor, Emmanuel S. Nelson, has tried to provide a single volume access point for high school and community college students and their teachers.

The eight-page introduction by Paul Lauter helps orient readers to the history, trends and challenges in field of ethnic studies scholarship. More than 150 signed articles by 100 scholars vary in length from 750 to 5,000 words and focus on four major groups: Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans and Latina/o. The majority of the helpful short entries provide concise information on specific authors and important texts. The longer, more comprehensive entries provide overviews on the background history, traditions and trends of everything from Korean American Literature to Puerto Rican American Poetry.

All entries are listed in a single alphabetical arrangement. Shorter articles on individual authors consist of the author’s name in bold letters followed biographical birth and death dates and ethnicity. The body of the entry analyzes specific texts and works that will be useful to students seeking information for reports. There are cross references and a short, two-to-three-item list of accessible secondary sources for further reading. There is a table of contents which lists all works alphabetically. There is a longer selected bibliography that would be helpful for additional research. There is an index that is somewhat helpful but not comprehensive so it is difficult to use.

I looked in the index but could not find an entry on African American author, Virginia Hamilton who wrote and published forty-one books in multiple genres that spanned picture books and folktales, mysteries and science fiction, realistic novels and biography. She was one of the most distinguished authors of twentieth century youth literature and the first to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. She received nearly every award in the field during her thirty-five-year career, including several Coretta Scott King Awards; an Edgar Allan Poe Award; Hans Christian Andersen Medal, for the body of her work; John Newbery Medal and three Honor Books ; and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, for the body of her work. By diligently reading every broad entry on African American literature, I found mention of her in a phrase on page 58. I also could not find Walter Dean Myers in the index. I found it frustrating and I feel students will also be discouraged by the lack of accessibility.

I realize that this is not the five-volume Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature (Greenwood, 2005) which was also edited by Nelson. It is so very comprehensive and useful with more than 1,100 signed entries that it became my “go-to” reference work on the topic. The new work does update and enlarge some of the topics but it does not replace the older work.

High school and community college libraries that do not own the older work will find this single volume work useful. For the price, it is a good buy but it could have been so much better.—Dona J. Helmer, Librarian, Anchorage School District, Anchorage, Alaska


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