Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Tickets are available for Graywolf Literary Gala in Minneapolis on September 19. For more details about the event or to make a gift in honor of our 50th anniversary, click here

Book Title

The Black Interior

Author 1
Elizabeth Alexander
With a poet's precision and an intellectually adventurous spirit, Elizabeth Alexander explores a wide spectrum of contemporary African American artistic life through literature, paintings, popular media, and films, and discusses its place in current culture. In The Black Interior, she examines the vital roles of such heavyweight literary figures as Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, and Rita Dove, as well as lesser known, yet vibrant, new creative voices. She offers a reconsideration of "afro-outré" painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, the concept of "race-pride" in Jet magazine, and her take on Denzel Washington's career as a complex black male icon in a post-affirmative action era. Also available is Alexander's much heralded essay on Rodney King, Emmett Till, and the collective memory of racial violence.

Alexander, who has been a professor at the University of Chicago and Smith College, and recently at Yale University, has taught and lectured on African American art and culture across the country and abroad for nearly two decades. In The Black Interior, she directs her scrupulous poet's eye to the urgent cultural issues of the day. This lively collection is a crucial volume for understanding current thinking on race, art, and culture in America.

Share Title

List Price
Publication Date
Publication Date
Trim Size
Trim Size
5 1/4 x 8 1/2
"Elizabeth Alexander is one of the brightest stars in our literary sky . . . a superb, invaluable commentator on the American scene."—Arnold Rampersad

About the Author

Elizabeth  Alexander
Credit: CJ Gunther
Elizabeth Alexander is the author of five previous books of poetry including American Sublime, a finalist for the Pulitzer prize. She is also the author of a memoir, The Light of the World, and two books of essays, including The Black Interior. On January 20, 2009, she delivered her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She has received the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry, the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship, and the Jackson Poetry Prize. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, the director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation, and the Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.
More by author


  • The Black Interior, a critical look at some of black America’s most influential cultural voices, may be another such masterpiece. . . . best known for her poetry, it may be that poet’s lyricism and eye for nuance that makes this new work so compelling.”—SAVOY
  • “This original and electrifying collection greatly enriches and extends understanding of African American culture and its essential role in American culture as a whole.”—Booklist
  • “In prose that is both elegant and clear, rigorous and accessible, Elizabeth Alexander illuminates in these essays on art, literature, film and politics, places in African American culture that elude stereotypic representations and the limits of public discourse.”—Valerie Smith, Princeton University
  • “Elizabeth Alexander’s keen observations about a broad range of African American artifacts—poems, films, photographs, and conceptual art, for example—offer far more than clever visual analysis.  They set cultural objects into their broadest social context. In these perceptive and eloquent essays, Alexander continually reminds us of the power of representation—words, images, indeed art itself—to oppress, to provoke, and ultimately to liberate.  The Black Interior represents the best and most resonant form of cultural history, writing that tackles life-and-death issues through the lenses of visual and literary culture.”—Maurice Berger, Senior Fellow, The Vera List Center for Art & Politics, New School University
Back to Table of Contents