Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Black Feminist Book Club: When and Where I Enter

Update: I am so excited that so many people plan to read along with me! Several of you have commented or e-mailed that you have ordered the book or put your name on the list at the local library. To allow time for everyone to participate, I'll post my first discussion of the book on Jan. 21.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@whattamisaid) may remember how much I enjoyed watching a conversation between Angela Davis and Toni Morrison on C-Span that centered around Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - An American Slave Written By Himself. In this environment of proud and willful bigotry, know-nothing talking heads and know-even-less anti-intellectual politicians, it was refreshing to hear these gracious, compassionate, creative and learned thinkers talk. There is hope, people. There is hope. And there was something else, too. They are black women. And black women's voices are rarely heard--even within movements that claim to be about us, like feminism and civil rights. But here these women were, holding the room with their brilliance, talking about everything from literacy to gay marriage to immigration to police brutality. They were/are fierce. And so is Beverly Guy-Sheftall, an icon of the black feminist movement who was recently interviewed at The Root. Hearing from these women feels like being fed. And it occurred to me afterward that I am starving for this. I am woefully ignorant about the work of black feminists and activists like Davis, Morrison and Guy-Sheftall. Embarrassingly, I had not even heard of Guy-Sheftall until the Root interview. I need to change this.

So, I have committed to reading the work of black feminists and womanists in 2011. And I wonder if you might be interested in reading along with me. I'd like to try a sort of virtual Black Feminist Book Club, where we can read and discuss the work of women like Audre Lourde, bell hooks, Angela Davis, etc. I'm not sure how this might work. For now, I will approach it as I have Southern Women, which I just finished reading. I''ll share passages that speak to me, analyze them and hopefully generate conversation among readers. What I really want, though, is for this book club to be dynamic. I'd like to talk to YOU through virtual roundtables, periodic podcasts and guest posts. If you're willing...

Everyone is welcome here. You needn't be black or a woman or label yourself a feminist.

Our first book will be When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings
When and Where I Enter is an eloquent testimonial to the profound influence of African-American women on race and women's movements throughout American history. Drawing on speeches, diaries, letters, and other original documents, Paula Giddings powerfully portrays how black women have transcended racist and sexist attitudes--often confronting white feminists and black male leaders alike--to initiate social and political reform. From the open disregard for the rights of slave women to examples of today's more covert racism and sexism in civil rights and women's organizations, Giddings illuminates the black woman's crusade for equality. In the process, she paints unforgettable portraits of black female leaders, such as anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, educator and FDR adviser Mary McLeod Bethune, and the heroic civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, among others, who fought both overt and institutionalized oppression.
When and Where I Enter reveals the immense moral power black women possessed and sought to wield throughout their history--the same power that prompted Anna Julia Cooper in 1892 to tell a group of black clergymen, "Only the black woman can say 'when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole . . . race enters with me.'"
I have two questions for you:

Are you on board? (I hope you will read along. If you are willing to participate in virtual roundtables, podcasts or crossposts, send me an email at

What books and/or other writings by black feminists or womanists do you believe are fundamental reading?


navelgazingbajan said...

What a great idea! I've already gone ahead and put the book on hold at the library.

I've been meaning to really start reading more by women like Audre Lorde and bell hooks. This is the perfect way to start.

BroadSnark said...

Thanks for the link to that CSPAN interview. I'm reading that book right now and can't wait to hear the discussion.

While I'm not a candidate for a round-table..., I would love to read the books, follow the convo, and perhaps post some of the stuff (or at least links)on my blog.

Anonymous said...

This should be interesting and I would like to participate. I remember reading Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde in college, but that was so long ago that I need to have my memory refreshed. I too have never heard Beverly Guy-Sheftall and I will research her to find out more about her.

Amadi said...

I've reserved the book at my library as well, and I'm looking forward to being a part of the discussion. I'm definitely up for round-tabling or otherwise participating publicly. This looks to be a fascinating read.

BrownGirl said...

In, in, I took a course called The Black Woman which I thoroughly enjoyed. Our main text was Guy-Sheftall's Words of Fire anthology. Of course we read hooks and Lorde as well. We did not, however, read When and Where I Enter. This gives me a reason to finally get this off my wishlist.

I look forward to the conversations.

ZiaTroyano said...

I read When and Where I Enter many years ago. This would be a nice chance to get reacquainted with it. I don't think I would have time to participate, but I will definitely follow the conversation. Great idea!

Julia said...

I'm in, although I just picked up Southern Women, also on your recc., so will be reading fast to keep up! (it's a good kind of challenge.)

honestly, so much of this stuff I haven't read, and I'm not proud of that. this is a good kick in the pants.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...