Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thoughts on The Why of Black Female Literature

I have been reading and reviewing black female literature for the past couple years.

Why do I do that?

The journey to black female literature started almost accidentally in a way.

I was at the book store indulging my passion.  I love to read and I also love to purchase the books that really interest me, I want them on my shelf.

My eyes scanned all the books in the "African American Section" and landed on a few authors I hadn't read yet, namely Bernice L. McFadden and Breena Clarke.  I picked up those books.  I enjoyed what I read and like someone thirsty for water, kept going back to the well.

A few years later and having discovered even more books, one thing I noticed was that the publishing houses were also filling the shelves with what I consider soft porn, erotica, and "urban" lit trash they were passing off as literature.  That stuff was just short of being chick lit and romance novels that are just fill-in, maybe beach reads, but nothing to be considered for thoughtful prose.  The more of these "novels" I saw, the more I wanted literature, a quest for thoughtful dialogue and well planned paragraphs.  I'd had enough of the half naked women on the covers of the books.

The other reason why I read and review black female literature is that I know the power of the arts to shape opinion.  I wanted to discover and help my audience discover the wealth of writing portraying black women in a positive light.  I didn't want any more of "the Help" and other somewhat patronizing works that really didn't delve into the depth of modern black women's lives.

I think Zora Neale Hurston in her 1950 essay, "What White Publishers Won't Print" summed up my thoughts regarding black female literature in 2012.  She wrote, "I have been amazed by the Anglo-Saxon's lack of curiosity about the internal lives and emotions of the Negroes, and for that matter, any non-Anglo-Saxon peoples within our borders, above the class of unskilled labor." (The Prentice Hall Anthology of African American Literature, p. 973).  Her discourse goes on to talk about publishers wanting to make money (true) and their assumption that the public already knows all they need to know about people of color, after all, they are on display daily, so there is no need to dig deeper.  She further offered that there was an assumption that black people did not have emotional lives, love lives, or romance, anything involving reason, choice, feelings, and living fully.  It is 2012 and sadly, a lot of the same assumptions take place.

Black female literature is a release for me, an opportunity to explore the deeper side of women like me.  Even with my admiration of the the authors and books I've been able to find, I'm still dismayed that there aren't a lot of stories about modern women.  I live in the 21st century, in the year 2012.  It does get tiring reading about slavery, the antebellum period, the Jim Crow era, the great migration era, of the Civil Rights era as if black women simply stopped living beyond 1968. Perhaps that is the story for me to write.


1 comment:

  1. Yes, Zora explained it best. This is an important journey you're on and one that we'll all benefit from. Stay strong. Blessings!

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