African Diasporic Women's Narratives: Politics of Resistance, Survival, and Citizenship
Simone A. James Alexander
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Winner of the College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award
“Brilliant. Alexander helps us to understand the complexities of race, gender, sexuality, migration, and identity as they intersect with creativity. A must-read for those interested in women’s writing today.”—Renée Larrier, author of Autofiction and Advocacy in the Francophone Caribbean
“Critically engages current topical issues with sophisticated scholarly readings. There is a tone of the transgressive that gives this work the kind of edge that always provides transcendence.”—Carole Boyce Davies, author of Caribbean Spaces
“An authoritative and original study, characterized by meticulously researched scholarship, which focuses on the female body across a fascinating corpus of literary production in the Caribbean and elsewhere. This refreshing and effective interdisciplinary approach extends the boundaries of traditional literary analysis.”—E. Anthony Hurley, author of Through a Black Veil
Using feminist and womanist theory, Simone Alexander analyzes literary works that focus on the black female body as the physical and metaphorical site of migration. She shows that over time black women have used their bodily presence to complicate and challenge a migratory process often forced upon them by men or patriarchal society.
Through in-depth study of selective texts by Audre Lorde, Edwidge Danticat, Maryse Condé, and Grace Nichols, Alexander challenges the stereotypes ascribed to black female sexuality, subverting its assumed definition as diseased, passive, or docile. She also addresses issues of embodiment as she analyzes how women’s bodies are read and seen; how bodies “perform” and are performed upon; how they challenge and disrupt normative standards.
A multifaceted contribution to studies of gender, race, sexuality, and disability issues, African Diasporic Women’s Narratives engages a range of issues as it grapples with the complex interconnectedness of geography, citizenship, and nationalism.
the law. The narrative of courage and perseverance unfolds that on August 9, 1956, twenty thousand black South African women protested the law that required that they carry passbooks as proof of citizenship, marching to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the site of the apartheid government at the time. Although women of all races took part in this protest march, Khanyi Mugabane reminds us that the flames of protest ignited decades earlier, in 1913, when black women formed the Bantu’s Women League,
small. While registering her resistance and despite grappling with the dehumanizing practices of enslavement, Tituba realizes the need to remain human, to remain maternal. As she experiences the joy of alternative mothering of Samantha, the daughter whom she delivered spiritually, Tituba proudly and self-assuredly verbalizes: “A child I didn’t give birth to but whom I chose. What motherhood could be nobler!” (177). Furthermore, Tituba dismantles the framework of ideal motherhood and mothering.
She intends to impart to Samantha this legacy of female resistance, admitting that “she had been singled out for a special destiny,” as she reveals to “her the secrets . . . the hidden power of herbs” (177). In rejecting the hypersexual and the hyposexual iconic images of black female subjects, Tituba rejects the attendant “tangle of pathology” that weighs on the definitions (Davis, “Reflections” 4).22 Moreover, Tituba’s rejecting John Indian’s advice that she confess to the Puritans of
Doubles, Fatness and Blackness · 143 Conclusively, White summarizes that masking was a necessary strategy adopted by slave women “in order to protect valued parts of their lives from white and male invasion” (24). Even as she memorializes the quintessential Mammy figure, Aunt Jemima, the Fat Black Woman asserts that she is not a “stolen woman”: “This fat black woman ain’t no Jemima / Sure thing Honey / Yeah” (Nichols, Fat Black Woman 9).13 As feminist critic Patricia Hill Collins cogently
being situated in the assumed confines of the kitchen, give powerful voice to their poetic expressions (Reena, 4). The kitchen therefore functions as a sanctuary, insulated from patriarchal impositions and censorship, and a site that promotes the practice of flexible female citizenship. This reconfiguration contradicts the masculinist definition of the woman-citizen as second class, as subordinate. In an ironic twist, grease symptomatic of hard toil, whether physical or sexual, starkly