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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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 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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Melissa Harris-Perry is one of our most trenchant readers of modern black life. In Sister Citizen, she gives new life to the idea that the personal is political. This book will change the conversation about the rights, responsibilities, and burdens of citizenship." Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
"This is a broad, ambitious and important book that centers black women at the heart of American politics. Harris-Perry broadens our ideas of what counts as political, disrupts our ideas about what the study of American politics should look like, and restores our belief that resistance and struggle can change lives, communities and nations." Cathy J. Cohen, author of Boundaries of Blackness and Democracy Remixed
"Sister Citizen carefully documents the complex challenges and hurdles Black women face in the 21st century. Harris-Perry's book is both insightful and provocative. A must read for those interested in learning more about American politics." Donna Brazile, Political Commentator for CNN and ABC News and former Interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee
"Sister Citizen lends empirical heft to the adage the "personal is political". Melissa Harris-Perry does an excellent job of weaving literature, social science, and personal accounts to produce a powerful work on black women's politics. Brilliant." Lester K. Spence, author of Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics
From a highly respected thinker on race, gender, and American politics, a new consideration of black women and how distorted stereotypes affect their political beliefs.
This groundbreaking book brings to light derogatory stereotypes that shape the experiences of African American women, then assesses the emotional and political costs of the struggle to counteract such negative assumptions.
Not many women can claim to have changed history, but Nafis Sadik set that goal in her youth, and change the world she did. Champion of Choice tells the remarkable story of how Sadik, born into a prominent Indian family in 1929, came to be the worldand#8217;s foremost advocate for womenand#8217;s health and reproductive rights, the first female director of a United Nations agency, and and#8220;one of the most powerful women in the worldand#8221; (London Times).
An obstetrician, wife, mother,and#160;and devout Muslim, Sadik has been a courageous and tireless advocate for women, insisting on discussing the difficult issues that impact their lives: education, contraception, abortion, as well as rape and other forms of violence. After Sadik joined the fledgling UN Population Fund in 1971, her groundbreaking strategy for providing females with education and the tools to control their own fertility has dramatically influenced the global birthrate. This book is the first to examine Sadikand#8217;s contribution to history and the unconventional methods she has employed to go head-to-head with world leaders to improve millions of womenand#8217;s lives.
Interspersed between the chapters recounting Sadikand#8217;s life are vignettes of females around the globe who represent her campaign against domestic abuse, child marriage, genital mutilation, and other human rights violations. With its insights into the political, religious, and domestic battles that have dominated womenand#8217;s destinies, Sadikand#8217;s life story is as inspirational as it is dramatic.
Long before it became the slogan of the presidential campaign for Barack Obama, Dorothy Ferebee (1898and#8211;1980) lived by the motto YES, WE CAN. An African American obstetrician and civil rights activist from Washington DC, she was descended from lawyers, journalists, politicians, and a judge. At a time when African Americans faced Jim Crow segregation, desperate poverty, and lynch mobs, she advised presidents on civil rights and assisted foreign governments on public health issues. Though articulate, visionary, talented, and skillful at managing her publicity, she was also tragically flawed.
Ferebee was president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha black service sorority and later became the president of the powerful National Council of Negro Women in the nascent civil rights era. She stood up to gun-toting plantation owners to bring health care to sharecroppers through her Mississippi Health Project during the Great Depression.
A household name in black America for forty years, Ferebee was also the media darling of the thriving black press. Ironically, her fame and relevance faded as African Americans achieved the political power for which she had fought. In She Can Bring Us Home, Diane Kiesel tells Ferebeeand#8217;s extraordinary story of struggle and personal sacrifice to a new generation.
About the Author
Melissa V. Harris-Perry is professor of political science and founding director of a project on Race, Gender, and Politics in the South, Newcomb College Institute, Tulane University. She is a contributor at MSNBC, a columnist for The Nation, and author of the award-winning book Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. She lives in New Orleans.
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