By Gina Wisker (eds.)
This booklet features a full of life and vast ranging choice of severe essays on Black women's writing from Afro-American, African, South African, British and Caribbean novelists, poets, brief tale writers and a dramatist. The individuals are black and white, male and female, teachers and readers who chart their engagement with and pleasure of the texts of a few of the major figures in black women's writing throughout numerous continents.
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But Shange moves further than Nichols in her refusal of the authority of the written word by substituting '&' for 'and', through the contraction of words, through a spelling that denotes spoken rhythms. Shange, in a more pronounced manner than Nichols, invites the reader's eyes to dance across the page by reserving the left-hand side for stage directions and keeping the right-hand space for the spoken/ sung words. Activity is demanded at every level: of the text, of the performers, of the reader.
It is a battlefield rather than sacred soil. The internalisation of a power structure which is weighted against Hyacinth turns her body into a trap - being subject to the body equals being a victim. Nothing to celebrate, no joyful overflowing, no games with form. The Unbelonging, despite its refusal of a happy ending, has essentially a linear structure and belongs to the tradition of realism. It charts chronologically Hyacinth's development from childhood to adulthood, providing alternating currents of 'reality' and dream world, gradually completing and rectifying the images which make up Hyacinth's world.
I have an overwhelming amount of material I could footnote if I wanted to . . I'm not interested in an annotated Shange. I could let a European do that, but I'm not going to. Either you know us or you don't. If you don't, then you should look it up.... We do not have to refer continually to European art as the standard. That's absolutely absurd and racist, and I won't participate in that utter lie. 20 Here is the same refusal of a self-styled authority - that of European history and art- as was encountered in Shange's style of writing in relation to the written word.