The African American Experience: Black Feminism and Womanhood

The African American Experience blog photo

What does it mean to be a black woman in America? In the following titles, scholars, humorists, historians, activists, and others discuss that question through the lens of pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism to share the contributions of African American women in our country’s history as well as confront the challenges of being a black woman in today’s world.

Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom

In eight highly praised treatises on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom—award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed—is unapologetically “thick”: deemed “thick where I should have been thin, more where I should have been less,” McMillan Cottom refuses to shy away from blending the personal with the political, from bringing her full self and voice to the fore of her analytical work.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better, coming from one of our most interesting and important cultural critics.

You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

Being a black woman in America means contending with old prejudices and fresh absurdities every day. Using her trademark wit alongside pop-culture references galore, Robinson explores everything from why Lisa Bonet is “Queen. Bae. Jesus,” to breaking down the terrible nature of casting calls, to giving her less-than-traditional advice to the future female president, and demanding that the NFL clean up its act, all told in the same conversational voice that launched her podcast, 2 Dope Queens, to the top spot on iTunes. As personal as it is political, You Can’t Touch My Hair examines our cultural climate and skewers our biases with humor and heart.

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins

An influential literary critic presents a highly anticipated collection of linked essays interweaving incisive commentaries on subjects ranging from pop culture and feminism to black history, misogyny and racism to confront the challenges of being a black woman in today’s world.

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

A leading young black feminist illuminates how organized anger, friendship, and faith can be powerful sources of positive feminist change, explaining how targeted rage has shaped the careers of such African-American notables as Serena Williams, Beyoncé, and Michelle Obama.

Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim

In this timely anthology, Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of our best black women writers to shine a light on how important it is that we all–regardless of gender, race, religion, or ability–have the opportunity to find ourselves in literature. As she has done with her book club-turned-online community Well-Read Black Girl, in this anthology Glory Edim has created a space in which black women’s writing and knowledge and life experiences are lifted up, to be shared with all readers who value the power of a story to help us understand the world and ourselves

 

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forget by Mikki Kendall

A collection of essays taking aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women.

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

A classic work of feminist scholarship, Ain’t I a Woman has become a must-read for all those interested in the nature of Black womanhood. Examining the impact of sexism on Black women during slavery, the devaluation of Back womanhood, Black male sexism,racism among feminists, and the Black woman’s involvement with feminism, hooks attempts to move us beyond racist and sexist assumptions

Black is the Body: Stores From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine by Emily Bernard

A memoir (of sorts) that looks at race in a fearless, penetrating, honest, true way. … ‘I am black-and brown, too,’ writes Emily Bernard. ‘Brown is the body I was born into. Black is the body of the stories I tell.’ These twelve telltale, connected, deeply personal essays explore, up close, the complexities and paradoxes, the haunting memories and ambushing realities, of growing up black in the South with a family name inherited from a white man, of getting a PhD from Yale, of marrying a white man from the North, of adopting two babies from Ethiopia, of teaching at a white college and living in New England today

A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women From Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland by DaMaris Hill

Contains biographical information about black women freedom fighters throughout the history of the United States, as well as poems inspired by the women discussed in the text.

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and The Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The Combahee River Collective, a path-breaking group of radical black feminists, was one of the most important organizations to develop out of the antiracist and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s. In this collection of essays and interviews edited by activist-scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, founding members of the organization and contemporary activists reflect on the legacy of its contributions to Black feminism and its impact on today’s struggles.

The Sisters are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris

Celebrated writer Tamara Winfrey Harris writes a searing account of being a black woman in America and explains why it’s time for black women to speak for themselves

Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought

The first major anthology to trace the development, from the early 1800s to the present, of black feminist thought in the United States

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry

In this groundbreaking book, Melissa V. Harris-Perry uses multiple methods of inquiry, including literary analysis, political theory, focus groups, surveys, and experimental research, to understand more deeply black women’s political and emotional responses to pervasive negative race and gender images. Not a traditional political science work concerned with office-seeking, voting, or ideology, Sister Citizen instead explores how African American women understand themselves as citizens and what they expect from political organizing. Harris-Perry shows that the shared struggle to preserve an authentic self and secure recognition as a citizen links together black women in America

Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America by Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden

Based on the African American Women’s Voices Project, Shifting reveals that a large number of African American women feel pressure to compromise their true selves as they navigate America’s racial and gender bigotry. 

A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramy Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

A vibrant and empowering history that emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are–and have always been–instrumental in shaping our country. In centering Black women’s stories, two award-winning historians seek both to empower African American women and to show their allies that Black women’s unique ability to make their own communities while combating centuries of oppression is an essential component in our continued resistance to systemic racism and sexism.

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.

 

About JMRL Central Reference

Librarians in the reference department at the Central Library of JMRL.

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