A centrepiece of the Harlem Renaissance, these indelible vignettes amass to a thorough masterpiece of lyric modernism.— Cam
Toomer's novel of Jim Crow America is...not quite a novel. Told in short character portraits, each vignette builds on the one before to create one living, breathing South. But it's not just the book's structure that defies definition: as you read, prose will transform to poetry, poetry will become song, and song will take on the gravity and finality of scripture.— Bekah
Reading Cane is like seeing a person’s whole life imprinted in an expression crossing their face as you pass them in the street. Toomer achieves this with a striking structure that employs poems, prose chapters, and song lyrics to build tales of life in the nineteen teens and early twenties, spanning from rural south up north, in overlapping vignettes which read like a lyrical anthropologist describing the neighbors with deep attention and love-care.— Tilghman
“Cane . . . exerted a powerful influence over the Harlem Renaissance”—The New York Times
Cane is a collection of short stories, poems, and dramas, written by Harlem Renaissance author Jean Toomer in 1923. The stories focus around African-American culture in both the North and the South during times when racism and Jim Crow laws still abounded. Vignettes of the lives of various African-American characters tell what it was like to live both in the rural areas of Georgia and the urban streets of the northern cities.
The book was heralded as an influential part of the Harlem Renaissance and, at the time, influenced artists of every background. Authors, dramatists, and even jazz musicians could find influence and inspiration in the pages of Cane’s work. Both Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes themselves visited Sparta, Georgia, after reading Toomer’s work.
Unfortunately, the white public did not react well to Cane, and the sales dropped. The book did not become revered as the classic work it is today until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Now you can read this new edition of what is considered one of the best works of the Harlem Renaissance.
About the Author
Jean Toomer started his career as a teacher in Sparta, Georgia, before becoming a lecturer and writer. He wrote extensively for the Dial and other magazines, as well as wrote numerous plays. After the downfall of his book Cane (1923), Toomer attended the Gurdjieff Institute in France and became a teacher of meditation. Though he is now known as one of the most prolific authors of the Harlem Renaissance, Toomer—like most famous artists—was not well-known or praised until after his death in 1967.