We live in a world of talk. Yet Race Sounds argues that we need to listen more—not just hear things, but actively listen—particularly in relation to how we engage race, gender, and class differences. Forging new ideas about the relationship between race and sound, Furlonge explores how black artists—including well-known figures such as writers Ralph Ellison and Zora Neale Hurston, and singers Bettye LaVette and Aretha Franklin, among others—imagine listening. Drawing from a multimedia archive, Furlonge examines how many of the texts call on readers to “listen in print.” In the process, she gives us a new way to read and interpret these canonical, aurally inflected texts, and demonstrates how listening allows us to engage with the sonic lives of difference as readers, thinkers, and citizens.
Intervening in discourses of African American and black feminist literatures, where sound and voice dominate, Furlonge shifts our attention to listening as an aural strategy of cultural, social, and civic engagement that not only enlivens how we read, write, and critique texts, but also informs how we might be more effective audiences for each other and against injustice in our midst. The result is a fascinating examination that brings new insights to African American literature and art, American literature, democratic philosophy, and sound studies.