Cover image for
Title:
Sister citizen : shame, stereotypes, and Black women in America
Author(s):
Harris-Perry, Melissa V. (Melissa Victoria), 1973-
ISBN/ISSN:
9780300165418

0300165412
Physical Description:
xiv, 378 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
"For colored girls who've considered politics when being strong isn't enough."--Cover
Contents:
"The hurricane," from Their eyes were watching God / Zora Neale Hurston -- "The Bridge poem" / Kate Rushin -- Crooked room -- Myth -- "Resisting the shame of Shug Avery," from The color purple / Alice Walker -- Shame -- Disaster -- "No mirrors in my Nana's house" / Sweet Honey in the Rock, lyrics by Ysaye Maria Barnwell -- Strength -- God -- "Praise song for the day" / Elizabeth Alexander -- Michelle.
Abstract:
Jezebel's sexual lasciviousness, Mammy's devotion, and Sapphire's outspoken anger -- these are among the most persistent stereotypes that black women encounter in contemporary American life. Hurtful and dishonest, such representations force African American women to navigate a virtual crooked room that shames them and shapes their experiences as citizens. Many respond by assuming a mantle of strength that may convince others, and even themselves, that they do not need help. But as a result, the unique political issues of black women are often ignored and marginalized. 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, from the anonymous survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the current First Lady of the United States.
Bibliography Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Pub Date:
Yale University Press, [2011]

©2011
Holds:

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Summary

Summary

Jezebel's sexual lasciviousness, Mammy's devotion, and Sapphire's outspoken anger--these are among the most persistent stereotypes that black women encounter in contemporary American life. Hurtful and dishonest, such representations force African American women to navigate a virtual crooked room that shames them and shapes their experiences as citizens. Many respond by assuming a mantle of strength that may convince others, and even themselves, that they do not need help. But as a result, the unique political issues of black women are often ignored and marginalized.

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, from the anonymous survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the current First Lady of the United States.


Author Notes

Melissa V. Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair, Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute, and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, at Wake Forest University. Her previous book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought , won the 2005 W. E. B. Du Bois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and 2005 Best Book Award from the Race and Ethnic Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Harris-Perry (Barbershops, Bibles, and BET), columnist for the Nation, draws on literature, biography, social science, anecdote, and focus group statistics to explore the three most pervasive (and pernicious) stereotypes of black women-Jezebel (who signifies sexual promiscuity), Sapphire (emasculating brashness), and Mammy (a devotion to "white domestic concerns"). She assays the political implications and consequences of these archetypes in the lives of contemporary black women-and for how they influences black women's participation in American public life, finding that they enjoy a less than complete citizenship: "these misrecognitions contribute to pervasive experiences of shame for black women [which] limit the opportunities for African American women as political and thought leaders." Harris-Perry's methodological style leaves a lot of room for academic debate, but her easy straddling of women's and African-American studies and current hot-button issues (everything from Hurricane Katrina to the Duke lacrosse case) and her style could fit as easily into the classroom as a reading group. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice Review

An excerpt from Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) serves as the frame for a question: If politics is about recognition, then how do black women claim such recognition in the face of multiple socially constructed negative images? This question is at the core of the multifaceted analysis conducted by Harris-Perry (Tulane Univ.). The analysis brings together literature, biography, and social science to tell the story of how black women respond to intergroup and intragroup misrecognition to make their claims of citizenship. Harris-Perry asserts that black women, in their quest for citizenship, must confront the shame that results from the imposition of images such as "Jezebel." Her book continues the work of other researchers who have long sought to assert the voices of black women, such as Sue Jewell's From Mammy to Miss America (CH, Jan'93, 30-5783), in discussions of democracy and citizenship. There is a lot to unpack in this book as it touches on the public and private lives of black women, and on various topics such as Hurricane Katrina and the depiction of Michelle Obama. While this makes the analysis comprehensive, it also makes it daunting. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, research, and professional collections. J. S. Jordan-Zachery Providence College


Booklist Review

The media image of Michelle Obama as an angry black woman during the presidential campaign was part and parcel of the struggle of black women to present themselves without the baggage of old myths that limit them. Political scientist Harris-Perry examines how myths and images of black women affect the politics of their lives, their opportunities, and their emotional well-being. She draws on literature and interviews with black women regarding what it means to be a black woman and a U.S. citizen. She parallels the harrowing flood scenes in Zora Neale Hurston's classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God and the images of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines Toni Morrison's Pecola in The Bluest Eye, Alice Walker's Shug Avery in The Color Purple, and other literary characters to explore specific myths and images of shame, strength, and sexuality and illustrate issues of race, gender, and class inequality. Harris-Perry offers fascinating observations of how black women are, at times, constricted by their mythology and asserts that their experiences act as a democratic litmus test for the nation. --Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Harris-Perry (political science, Tulane Univ.; Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought) offers a fascinating academic discussion of barriers to African American women's presence in American political culture. Central to her thesis is the democratic idea that an individual's personal and national identity must be accurately recognized and named to permit full citizenship and pursuant political participation. She goes on to identify and analyze society's rampant misrecognition of African American women and its insistence on viewing them within the narrow confines of stereotypes. The text includes examples of negative portrayals of African American women and Harris-Perry's research on reportage on the impact of these portrayals. VERDICT This honest and unflinching display of the challenges to political participation in America offers readers little regarding strategies toward either overcoming or rectifying this situation. Further, when Harris-Perry draws the reader toward fictive parallels in which novelized African American women characters exhibit resilience while becoming the politicized embodiments of named stereotypes, the central issue becomes muddled. Recommended, nonetheless, for scholars and students of African American studies, feminism, political science, and American culture.-Jewell Anderson, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ. Lib., Savannah, GA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Zora Neale HurstonKate RushinAlice WalkerYsaye Maria BarnwellElizabeth Alexander
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
ôThe Hurricane,ö from Their Eyes Were Watching Godp. 1
Introductionp. 4
ôThe Bridge Poem,öp. 24
Chapter 1 Crooked Roomp. 28
Chapter 2 Mythp. 51
ôResisting the Shame of Shug Avery,ö from The Color Purplep. 98
Chapter 3 Shamep. 101
Chapter 4 Disasterp. 134
ôNo Mirrors in My NanaÆs House,ö Sweet Honey in the Rock, lyricsp. 180
Chapter 5 Strengthp. 183
Chapter 6 Godp. 221
ôPraise Song for the Day,öp. 266
Chapter 7 Michellep. 269
Appendix: Survey Datap. 301
Notesp. 315
Indexp. 368

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