Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Jean Gould’s That Dunbar Boy: The Story of America’s Famous Negro Poet tells the story of Paul Laurence Dunbar. The biography mainly focuses on the development of Dunbar as a poet and writer. The first ten chapters describe Dunbar’s life as a boy growing up in Dayton, Ohio, and the final chapters recount Dunbar’s struggles to become accepted as a writer after his graduation from high school. Gould’s approach makes the book appealing to young readers, who perhaps will identify with the poet whom they first meet as a child.

A young man who always had a way with words, Dunbar become known to his classmates in school as “Deacon Dunbar.” He delivered readings at school assemblies and at his church. In fact, his mother hoped that the young “Deacon Dunbar” might become a minister, but Dunbar had aspirations to pursue a literary career. He was an editor on the school newspaper and, despite its lack of success, started an African-American newsletter in town that ran for a few issues. Dunbar was a member of Philomathean, Central High School’s debate and literary society, and Phi-lodramian, an acting club that he started with some friends.

Despite high hopes and the early talent that he exhibited with poetry, Dunbar experienced difficulty launching his writing career after graduating from high school. As an educated but African-American man, he was unable to break the color barrier and could not find employment with any of...

(The entire section is 448 words.)