By Amy Hoffman
You may notice that this issue of Women’s Review of Books is a little different from usual. Although we usually publish reviews of books on a range of subjects, to give readers a sense of the cross-disciplinary nature of Women’s and Gender Studies, in this issue, all the articles focus on an aspect of the lives of black women and other women of color—their identities, histories, politics. We’re calling the issue “Race, Gender, Generations”—and we felt compelled to put it together after a year in which racism, woman-hatred, homophobia, xenophobia, and all sorts of other bigotry burst, often violently, into the open. At the same time, oppressed and marginalized people are asserting their power and claiming their central place in the American community through Black Lives Matter and other creative organizing.
The issue’s centerpiece is a roundtable conversation among women from different generations of African American feminists: Barbara Smith and Demita Frazier, two of the founders of the 1970s Combahee River Collective; and Mecca Jamilah Sullivan and Stacey Patton, two of today’s writer-activists. In their broad-ranging conversation, they talk about their various philosophies and political definitions, generational differences and similarities, activist successes (and missteps), and what keeps them going, day after day, and year after year. As a sidebar to the roundtable, we provide a reading list including books and articles by writers mentioned by the roundtable participants.
In harmony with our theme, the cartoonist Ajuan Mance imagines what classic black women writers such as Zora Neale Hurston or Audre Lorde might think of today’s feminist literary landscape.
And the scholar and journalist Angela Ards writes in her essay about how black women, in particular, use personal narrative to inspire political action—from the writers of slave narratives such as Harriet Jacobs, to blue singers such as Ma Rainey, to the contemporary poet Claudia Rankine and pop singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.
After the worldwide women’s marches of January 20, Demita Frazier wrote to me, “Today, and every day, we engage in ordinary, and when possible, extraordinary acts of dissent, critical analysis, lawsuits, etc.—but really, it’s the small illuminating acts I am watching out for: people connecting, awkwardly, shyly, gently, lovingly, to build new relationships so we can get on with the project of dismantling the myths of white supremacy and male superiority and misogyny/misogynoir.” I hope that this issue will help you get on with your own projects, inspire you, challenge you. Please let us know what you think! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, read and comment on the WRB blog at www.wcwonline.org/womensreview, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.