A new novel by Harlem Renaissance author Claude McKay, titled “Amiable With Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem,” was discovered by a Columbia University graduate student and recently declared to be authentic.
The novel, which focuses on Harlem during the Great Depression, was found by Jean-Christophe Cloutier in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia in 2009 when Cloutier was sorting through materials belonging to writer Samuel Roth. The manuscript was discovered inside one of the boxes. Cloutier worked with a professor at Columbia, Brent Hayes Edwards, who was also his dissertation advisor. The two examined materials at other schools as well as McKay’s personal correspondence to try to determine if the book was actually written by the author. They also asked three experts to help them verify that the manuscript was genuine.
The novel pokes fun at Communists and also depicts Harlem night life, with the book’s characters visiting salons, night clubs, and other establishments.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard and one of the experts asked to examine the novel, said the discovery is an impressive one.
“Because it was written in the second half of the Harlem Renaissance, it shows that the renaissance continued to be vibrant and creative and turned its focus to international issues – in this case the tensions between Communists, on the one hand, and black nationalists, on the other, for the hearts and minds of black Americans,” Gates said.
Writer Claude McKay was born in Jamaica and is the author of such works as “Home to Harlem.”