Catalogue


Sister citizen : shame, stereotypes, and Black women in America /
Melissa V. Harris-Perry.
imprint
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2011.
description
xiv, 378 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0300165412 (clothbound : alk. paper), 9780300165418 (clothbound : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2011.
isbn
0300165412 (clothbound : alk. paper)
9780300165418 (clothbound : alk. paper)
general note
"For colored girls who've considered politics when being strong isn't enough."--Cover.
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.
catalogue key
7795027
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, USA, 2012 : Nominated
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-04-01:
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
Appeared in Library Journal on 2011-09-01:
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.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2011-08-08:
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.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Astonishing... Sister Citizenis written for the benefit of all Americans - sister citizens, brother citizens and anyone else who cares about the way this country works."-Tayari Jones, San Francisco Chronicle
"Astonishing... Sister Citizenis written for the benefit of all Americans - sister citizens, brother citizens and anyone else who cares about the way this country works."Tayari Jones, San Francisco Chronicle
"Astonishing... Sister Citizenis written for the benefit of all Americans-sister citizens, brother citizens and anyone else who cares about the way this country works."-Tayari Jones, San Francisco Chronicle
"Astonishing...Sister Citizen is written for the benefit of all Americans - sister citizens, brother citizens and anyone else who cares about the way this country works."Tayari Jones, San Francisco Chronicle
Finalist for the 43rd NAACP Image Awards in the Non-Fiction Literature Category
"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.''"Vanessa Bush, Booklist
"In Sister Citizen, Harris-Perry combines her skills as a social scientist, political observer, writer and griot to deftly illustrate how the social, economic, and political conditions of black women, particularly those on the margins, are the index for America at large."Byron Williams, Oakland Tribune
"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
" Sister Citizencarefully 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 Citizenlends 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
"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
"This is the beauty of the book....The insight and grace with which Harris-Perry tackles the thorny issue of African American women's identity politics makes it a must-read." Jordan Kisner, Slate
"This is the beauty of the book....The insight and grace with which Harris-Perry tackles the thorny issue of African American women's identity politics makes it a must-read."- Jordan Kisner, Slate
"After I read Sister Citizen, two words sprang to my mind: Thank you."Patrik Henry Bass, Essence
"A feminist manifesto endeavoring to free sisters forever from the cruel and very limiting ways in which they continue to be pigeonholed."Kam Williams, Insight
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, August 2011
Booklist, September 2011
Boston Globe, September 2011
Library Journal, September 2011
San Francisco Chronicle, September 2011
Choice, April 2012
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Jezebel's sexual lasciviousness, Mammy's devotion, and Sapphire's outspoken angerthese 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 Citizeninstead 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 Comments
In writing about black women's politics, why did you focus on psychological and emotional questions rather than resource inequalities, institutional practices, or traditional forms of political participation? I wanted this book to contribute to our understanding of black women as citizens. At first, I expected to write a more traditional political science text about women who organize in communities and run for office. But my research efforts kept bringing me back to black women's internal emotional experiences. The women I interviewed were keenly aware of race and gender barriers, resource disparities, and limited opportunities, but when they talked about themselves as Americans, they focused on psychic pain, emotional stress, debilitating shame, and the pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations. Many felt that they were trying to "do politics" in an environment where no one was willing to see them accurately or compassionately. Sister Citizendiscusses several stereotypes about black women. What are they, and why did you choose to explore them? In Sister CitizenI focus on three of the most pervasive and damaging historical stereotypes: Jezebel, Mammy, and the Angry Black Woman (Sapphire). Jezebel is an old myth asserting that black women are hypersexual, lusty, and wanton. This stereotype continues to influence public policy discussions about welfare assistance and reproductive rights. Mammy is the hypercompetent but completely nonthreatening black woman. The image of the devoted Mammy who uses her talents and skills to benefit the white domestic sphere is an epic stereotype promulgated in advertising, popular culture, and politics. Sapphire is a more contemporary archetype characterizing black women as aggressively and irrationally irate. It can be difficult for black women to get a fair hearing of their views if their passionate expressions are filtered through this negative assumption. Finally, I explore the myth of the strong black woman. Unlike the other stereotypes, which black women agree are negative and false, many African American women both believe and embrace the idea that they are endowed with a superhuman capacity to conquer overwhelming challenges. We might see this myth of strength as a positive counter to the negative stereotypes, but there are adverse consequences for black women who are determined to don the mantle of strength. Overall, I try to understand how black women's attempts to manage both the negative stereotypes and this presumably empowering myth can influence how they feel as they approach their political lives. Why does Hurricane Katrina occupy such an important place in this book? I believe that the political and psychological aftermath of Hurricane Katrina revealed critical fissures in our national life. For me, New Orleans is ground zero for understanding black women as citizens and as survivors. It is why I now make the city my home and why I have initiated at Tulane University a program on gender, race, and politics in the South. The last chapter deals with Michelle Obama. Why? Michelle Obama holds no official political position, has never run for office, and has no personal history of political organizing, yet she is profoundly important to understanding the challenges that black women face in American public life. Her management of her public image is instructive about how black women navigate race and gender stereotypes. Because she is First Lady, her efforts to gain accurate public recognition are emblematic of those engaged in by many black women.
Author Comments
Praise for Melissa Harris-Perry's Sister Citizen: "After I read Melissa Harris-Perry's new effort, Sister Citizen ,two words sprang to my mind: Thank you. . . . [She] convincingly argues that tired images of Black women as castrating shrews, neck-rolling round-the-way girls and long-suffering, asexual mammies undermine Black women's progress and power . . . She wisely uses the powerful chorus of real women to echo her battle cry that all sisters must be seen as true citizens before this country can move forward."-Patrik Henry Bass, Essence "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 " Sister Citizencarefully documents the complex challenges and hurdles Black women face in the twenty-first 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 "A feminist manifesto endeavoring to free sisters forever from the cruel and very limiting ways in which they continue to be pigeonholed."-Kam Williams, Insight
Library of Congress 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.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
ôThe Hurricane,ö from Their Eyes Were Watching Godp. 1
Introductionp. 4
ôThe Bridge Poem,öp. 24
Crooked Roomp. 28
Mythp. 51
ôResisting the Shame of Shug Avery,ö from The Color Purplep. 98
Shamep. 101
Disasterp. 134
ôNo Mirrors in My NanaÆs House,ö Sweet Honey in the Rock, lyricsp. 180
Strengthp. 183
Godp. 221
ôPraise Song for the Day,öp. 266
Michellep. 269
Appendix: Survey Datap. 301
Notesp. 315
Indexp. 368
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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