Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

When Appalachee Red was first published in 1978, it was awarded the James Baldwin Prize by its publisher, Dial Press (which also published Baldwin’s work), for its spirited portrayal of African American experience. Other than that recognition, neither Appalachee Red nor the two other novels in the Muskhogean Trilogy attracted much critical attention. This neglect is in large part a result of the unsettling effect that Andrews’s blend of tragedy and comedy has on sensitive readers and is also a result of Andrews’s tendency to serve as a revisionist historian of African American experience.

By the late 1980’s, however, an Andrews revival was initiated with the reissue of Andrews’s Muskhogean Trilogy by the University of Georgia Press. Further evidence that Andrews was beginning to be appreciated came in the publication of two additional books, The Last Radio Baby (1990) and Jessie and Jesus and Cousin Claire (1991). The 1991 annual conference of the College Language Association, a professional organization of African American scholars in literature and languages, featured a symposium on the works of Andrews with a guest appearance by the author. Appalachee Red was beginning to emerge as one of the finest examples of the modern comic novel, and the trilogy itself was awakening widespread acclaim. Although the death of Raymond Andrews by suicide in November, 1991, was an unexpected tragedy, an expanding readership of and scholarship on his work remain assured.