chapter  8
27 Pages

Black women writers: taking a critical perspective

WithSusan Willis

Susan Willis singles out three central concerns in writing by black women-community, journey and sexuality-through which they articulate a perspective on black experience in America. Illustrating this perspective by reference to the work of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Paule Marshall and Zora Neale Hurston, Willis shows how each writer comes to terms with the past and constructs a critique of the present. She finds that they problematize community, by contrasting the vital bonds uniting their mothers’ generation to the erosion of black cultural identity and surrender to commodification which occurred under capitalism. Similarly, they treat journey as a means of selfknowledge through re-entry into collective historical experience, itself defined by the journeys from Africa into slavery, and from the rural south to the urban north. Finally, they see black women’s sexual experience as distorted by a male-dominated heterosexuality, burdened by contradiction and ambivalence, but rich in the capacity for joyous sensuality, especially in communities of women.