Bestsellers

(Ends April 2) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), a long-time bestseller, is often read as a quintessential portrayal of the American Dream. Jay Gatsby, a white working-class outsider, adopts the persona of a wealthy aristocrat in Jazz Age New York. Black authors in the last century have engaged with Fitzgerald’s book or its themes, refreshing its impact in intriguing ways. As we will see in this class, the protagonist of Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929), like Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, aspires to the world of wealthy socialites; Toni Morrison’s Jazz (1992), taking place in the same period as Fitzgerald’s novel, views the Jazz Age within the context of the Great Migration and Jim Crow; and Stephanie Powell Watts’s No One Is Coming to Save Us (2017) situates Gatsby’s story in a declining North Carolina town, where JJ Ferguson, a wealthy Black entrepreneur, builds an impressive mansion. Reading Fitzgerald’s novel in dialogue with African American history and literary culture suggests how The Great Gatsby has grown and changed over the last century.