Darryl Pinckney

Darryl Pinckney


Darryl Pinckney is a long time contributor to The New York Review of Books, the author of two novels, High Cotton (1992) and Black Deutschland (2016), and two works of nonfiction, Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature (2002) and Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy (2014). He has contributed to numerous other periodicals, including The Guardian, Harper's, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, Slate, TLS, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. His several theatrical collaborations with director Robert Wilson have appeared internationally and at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

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Darryl Pinckney's first novel was High Cotton (1992). The novel won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. The story follows an unnamed narrator as he moves from his safe childhood in conservative Indianapolis to a brief tenure as minister of information for a local radical organization, to eventually settling into the life as an expatriate in Paris. Through it all, his imagination is increasingly dominated by his elderly African American relations and the lessons of their experiences in the “Old Country” of the South.

Pinckney's next book was a collection of essays Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature (2002). Originating with Pinckney's Alain Locke Lectures at Harvard University, the essays focus on three writers: J. A. Rogers, Vincent O. Carter, and Caryl Phillips.

Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy was reissued with a new essay in 2020. Described as "Pinckney’s meditation on a century and a half of participation by blacks in US electoral politics. In this combination of memoir, historical narrative, and contemporary political and social analysis, he investigates the struggle for black voting rights from Reconstruction through the civil rights movement to Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns. Drawing on the work of scholars, the memoirs of civil rights workers, and the speeches and writings of black leaders like Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael, Andrew Young and John Lewis, Pinckney traces the disagreements among blacks about the best strategies for achieving equality in American society as well as the ways in which they gradually came to create the Democratic voting bloc that contributed to the election of the first black president."

Pinckney's second novel Black Deutschland (2016) was named one of The Guardian (UK) Best Books of the Year.

Pinckney's most recent publication is Busted in New York and Other Essays with a foreword by Zadie Smith.

High Cotton by Darryl Pinckney Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature by Darryl Pinckney Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy by Darryl Pinckney Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney Busted in New York and Other Essays by Darryl Pinckney

Essays / Journalism

New York Review of Books Header

Darryl Pinckney has contributed to the NYRB since the 1970s. For a full list of his archived essays, please visit the NYRB website.

Escaping Blackness

26 March 2020 - Review of Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race by Thomas Chatterton Williams. Read Online at the NYRB Website.