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The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  625 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The stories in The Conjure Woman were Charles W. Chesnutt's first great literary success, and since their initial publication in 1899 they have come to be seen as some of the most remarkable works of African American literature from the Emancipation through the Harlem Renaissance. Lesser known, though, is that the The Conjure Woman, as first published by Houghton Mifflin, ...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published October 19th 1993 by Duke University Press Books (first published 1899)
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Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
On the surface, this book seems to be a series of tales that hark back to the days of plantations and slavery, all connected by The Conjure Woman, who, for a small payment, helps ease the trials and hardships of the slaves by her "goopherin." The book begins when a man, John, and his wife, Annie, move to North Carolina for Annie's health, and they meet Uncle Julius, who becomes their paid servant. Whenever John has plans for his land, he discusses his ideas with Uncle Julius, who then relates a ...more
Lady Shockley
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Conjure Woman is a series of stories set in the post Civil War south, told by a former slave who now works for the Northern (carpetbagging) family that has bought the old plantation where he lives. While they are much like the Uncle Remus stories of B'rer Fox and B'rer Bear, in that they also make use of a native narrator who talks in dialect, the Conjure Woman stories speak much more openly about the horrors of slavery. That this is done in an off- hand, that's -Just-what-happened tone make ...more
robin friedman
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it

Charles Chesnutt (1858 -- 1932) was a lawyer, businessman, and civil rights activist in addition to his chosen work and dream of becoming a successful early African American writer. His first published collection of stories, "The Conjure Woman" (1899) remains his best-known work. The seven original conjure stories in Cheshutt's book are included in this collection together with several additional conjure tales. My review focuses on the contents of the 1899 collection.

These tales are in
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, north-america
I found it a fascinating & thought-provoking collection of stories (one author, all stories have something to do with "conjuring" or "hoodoo" as it related to the post-Civil War era in rural NC).

Some of the stories were originally bundled & sold as a book, but this edition has stories the author wrote that were not included in the original book edition. (Some of the others were published separately in magazines & such.)

Chesnutt was an educated black man who could "pass" as white. He did not choo
Leo Walsh
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
THE CONJURE WOMAN by Charles Chestnutt is a classic bunch of tales, written in the late 1880s, which I'd not heard about until recently. It's a wonderful collection of tales narrated by John, a northern "carpetbagger" who buys a vineyard in North Carolina during Reconstruction.

John, however, is not the narrator that matters. instead, it's Uncle Julius, a freed slave who narrates tales that John relates. The African-American writer Charles Chestnutt's Julius resembles white southern Joel Chandle
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sadly was harder to read for me because of the heavy southern accent. But the content is great and should be read at school instead of continually reading the same white classics.
Jun 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-owned
Chesnutt's collection revolves around the frame narrative of a carpetbagger and his wife (John and Annie) settling in post-Civil War North Carolina to take over a vineyard, where they encounter Uncle Julius, a freed slave who remains on the land as a type of sharecropper/caretaker, working for his new white bosses. Uncle Julius tells dialect stories of old plantation life to "entertain" John and Annie, appearing to be a subversive parody of the Uncle Remus character, whose folksy tales and stori ...more
Cassandra Carico
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked this up for $1, and since it contains early tales of hoodoo, I wanted to see what I could learn from it. The stories are about a brilliant man named Julius who used his stories to aid others, and himself, in working through their cares. I adored this book and found it full of beauty. I wish I'd known Julius.
Lindsey Z
Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Chesnutt should be commended for writing almost exclusively in black vernacular of the post Civil War era in the U.S. from the point of view of a free black man. These stories are exhaustingly difficult to read, yet are also enjoyable if read aloud. The authenticity of the language is undeniable. The conjure tales were fascinating and whimsical. Slaves believed family and love to be more important than freedom in these tales which I found touching. My only criticism is that the tales are strewn ...more
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Genuinely enjoyed these stories and the metanarrative spun by Uncle Julius. The better ones are under 'Other Conjure Tales', but the bulk of the book still encompasses quite a few interesting (if predictable) stories that show a unique perspective on a tumultuous period in American history. Julius tricking Northern carpetbaggers to get himself an easier life is always amusing, and takes on quite a politically charged tone in the latter stories, showing both Chesnutt's respect and call for Africa ...more
Abie Boland
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
'Po' 'Sandy' is a southern American gothic tale with quintessentially Southern American dialect which makes it rather a difficult task to read. The plot describes an old slave named sandy who comes back as a ghost to haunt due to his repression of being a slave.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
What Chesnutt should be wholly commended for is his writing in a black vernacular and providing a freed slave with an opportunity for narrative. What he SHOULDN'T be commended on is how awful and condescending the character of John is. Maybe that's the point. Maybe John's just really fucking annoying.
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Difficult to read because of the heavy dialect, but the stories are entertaining. It's interesting to see the frame stories where Chesnutt presents himself as a white northern interpreter of these tales.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Book club selection. 3.5 stars.
Deb cambria
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I like this book but I listened to it on audible and it was hard to understand. I think it would have been better to read it in print. Seems to be a good American history lesson at the very least.
Lisa Lawrence
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
African-American folk tales that portray slaves coping w/ life under the control of what must have seemed overwhelming outside power. Fun, yet sad.
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another great set of short stories, with a werewolf story that somehow escapes all the lists of historical werewolf stories I've seen.
Feb 23, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2017-read-harder
2017 Read Harder - Read a classic by an author of color
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stefan Yates
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Conjure Woman and Other Tales is a collection of short stories tied together under the umbrella of a frame story in which a white northern couple has relocated to the South and has met a man on their property who they hire on as caretaker. The poor black southerner regales them with tales which they find entertaining but are actually pointing a finger directly at them. The book was first published in the late 1800's and the dialect is that of a poor southern black man and the stories themsel ...more
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Major Fields: 12/133
White authors have failed to write across the color line, but black authors can do both, and Chesnutt writes a character that can do it as well. Genre of the “local color narrative,” where an outsider comes to a very specific region and reports to readers the specific customs of the locations. Realist, descriptive, a location the presumed reader doesn’t already know about. Phonetic representation of speech. Portrays characters sympathetically. Tends to be superficial. Often s
Themes: slavery, race, magic, sneaky ways for the black man to get his way over the white man
Setting: North Carolina pre-Civil War and about 1880s

Loved these little short stories. All told by Uncle Julius, who manages to use the stories to get what he wants out of the rich white Northerners, one of whom suspects what he's up to, but gives in all the same. These are told in heavy dialect, the kind that makes Huck Finn and Uncle Remus look simple, so if that's going to bother you, don't pick it up
Sandro Serrano
May 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: folklore-magic
An interesting group of tales; written mostly in dialect, so if you have difficulty reading from the 1880's this will be a bit of a struggle to get through.

The stories are formulaic, but still enjoyable. Probably people of color will find the assumptions and prejudices of the just past reconstruction Southern states reprehensible, but if you can look at it as an artifact of its time it is more palatable.

One thing I especially enjoyed was that the folklore and hoodoo was well told and interestin
Eric Heff
I discovered Charles Chesnutt in a summer lit course on short stories and I am quite happy with the find. The Conjure stories is a compilation of all Chesnutt's short stories about John, Annie, and Uncle Julius in Patesville, NC. The stories are mostly told through the point of view of Uncle Julius who is an ex-slave. While the first story or two is a little hard to follow with his broken english, you start to get used to it and understand it just fine. While I enjoyed these stories (and wrote o ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved these stories. They all fall into the same conventional genre, but Chesnutt works masterfully within that genre to enact all sorts of interesting permutations and critiques and shades of meaning. The publication history of these tales is also really interesting, and I think this edition is a particularly nice one since it includes the stories that were considered for publication in the collection but didn't make the cut for various reasons. I'll have to read those after my exa ...more
Stephanie Ambrose
May 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nope
I had to read this in a college course regarding how we view others.

This is a good book...but extremely difficult to bear through it. This may seem a bit selfish, but I hated the literal dictation given to Uncle Julius. Sure, it added realism, but these folk tales would have been a lot more fun to read if I didn't mean that I would have to read each passage 2+ times to understand it.

All in all, if you want to read this book, prepare yourself for some aggravation and have patience.
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: English 362 w Dr Lawson
The literary dialect is a little difficult, but the stories are so entertaining! And the essays in the back of this Norton Critical were all really great.
I'm expected to look at these stories from a critical scholarly lens, and I will, but for my Goodreads reviews, this was just a bunch of really cool stories about magic and society and i liked them an awful lot.
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
After students tackle the dialect in Huck Finn, send them to Chesnutt. He uses the ig'nert naygroh spaych in the most brilliant kind of way . . . I think he's the most overlooked African American writer of the turn of the century.
Suzette Kunz
Nov 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I had never read Charles Chesnutt before this class I'm taking and I am really impressed. This collection tells a series of folk tales which usually involve a conjure woman helping slaves turn the tables on their white masters in some way.
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Charles Waddell Chesnutt was an author, essayist and political activist, best known for his novels and short stories exploring complex issues of racial and social identity.

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