Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.


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Poets and Women of Color

Poets have been a unique position in any culture, they move people with their sentiments and drive them to understand their own society and the people around them. A female poet has at the same time a very different role than male authors. We can see parables to this event through specific events in time such as female poets involved with many black power movements who would be suppressed by their male counter parts for writing about violence within the community. It is within a community that the voice of the women writers can speak to a more diverse understanding of that society to outsiders.

It has been a prevailing theme throughout our course on women writers to discuss not only the women writers who stood out, or writers who defined the genre, we discussed a number of varying degrees of women writers. The periods we discuss give us the background and precedent in understanding the history of women writing. However, it is through the many stories of women of color that we can discover personal experiences for different culture and the diverse nature of culture. Women poet’s of color allow us to have a better understanding of the people around us, they speak to new stories and tales and expands a person’s personal background. It was important for our class to go into this idea of women of color because without understanding the difference would be selling this tale short.

 

Lucille Clifton, an African American writer has been a defining leader as a “Woman of Color”, her pieces were celebrations of her heritage, the role of woman in society, and the female body. To Clifton her background changed her and not just defined her but influenced her as a woman and as a human.

The excerpt below speaks to Clifton’s discussion of the female body titled “Homage to My Hips” creates a sexual, physical, and social perspective to a woman and her hips.

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

 

Jamiaca Kincaid was born in the Caribbean, on the island of Antigua. She however moves to Vermont at a young age and talks of the her heritage and the influence of her mother. She has been important to the role of woman of color as a writer who early on wrote about the heritage of living back home on the island, but pushed aside often from a young age. Below is an excerpt from the poem “Girl” and in writing about her tales from back home she talks about the importance of her life growing up and the details that follows her.

  “Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don’t walk barehead in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil; soak your little cloths right after you take them off; when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn’t have gum on it, because that way it won’t hold up well after a wash”

Toni Cade Bambara, an African American poet, social activist, and social activist she wrote as someone who never had a voice. An African American woman fighting for her own rights, she is a minority that stands alone in many ranks. Bambara was a writer who stood alone in social activists groups. In one of her most famous writings “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird” a short story that held up the point of view of a young black woman from the south. It is one of social, and political struggle and the divide between races.

“The puddle had frozen over, and me and Cathy went stompin in it. The twins from next door, Tyrone and Terry, were swingin so high out of sight we forgot we were waitin our turn on the tire. Cathy jumped up and came down hard on her heels and started tapdancin. And the frozen patch splinterin every which way underneath kinda spooky. “Looks like a plastic spider web,” she said. “A sort of weird spider, I guess, with many mental problems.”

From the opening paragraph of her story, we see the culture and liveliness that follows her family and writing style. This prolific piece is something that creates a new sorted ideas and values for many family, order, and race.


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Xuela

Jamaica Kincaid

kincaid_jamaica

In Kincaid’s story “Xuela” it explores the life of a girl who never gets to see the face of her mother due to her mother’s maternal death. She is then given to the woman who did her father’s wash Ma Eunice.

“Ma Eunice was not unkind: she treated me just the way she treated her own children—but this is not to say she was kind to her own children. In a place like this, brutality is the only real inheritance and cruelty is sometimes the only thing freely given. I did not like her, and I missed the face I had never seen; I looked over my shoulder to see if someone was coming, as if I were expecting someone to come, and Ma Eunice would ask me what I was looking for, at first as a joke, but when, after a time, I did not stop doing it, she thought it meant I could see spirits. I could not see spirits at all, I was just looking for that face, the face I would never see , even if I lived forever.” (1045).

Xuela  is looking for more than just her mother’s face. She is also looking for her own identity in a way.  A mother is someone who is an important figure in one’s life. They are apart of their children and their children are a part of them. With Xuela it seems that without knowing the face of her mother she truly can never know what a motherly love is. That is why when she is with Ma Eunice she truly cannot break down this barrier and let Ma Eunice’s motherly love in.  Although, Ma Eunice’s love was not really love at all, but more of a kindness.

Later on in the story her father comes to get her and he has remarried and she is to now live with him and his new wife.

“I opened my eyes soon after to see the face of my father’s wife not too far above mine. She had the face of evil. I had no other face to compare it with; I knew only that hers was the face of evil as far as I could tell. She did not like me. I could see that.” (1053).

With her father’s new wife she has no trust at all. She can see that unlike Ma Eunice this woman is not going to be so kind. Even when given a beautiful necklace she chooses not to wear it and hide it on a dog. This nice gift eventually kills the dog.  Xuela who does not have a mother and feels as though a piece of her is missing. Until this face of her mother is revealed to her and this piece of her is returned she will never find happiness. No matter if this step mother was kind to her or not she truly would never have any true feelings of love for any mother figure. Her mother who died is the only one she could ever love and since she is gone so is the love that Xuela has to give.

Even in today’s world, in 2013 Kincaid’s story can relate to any child who’s mother has passed away whether it was a maternal death or a death while the child was at a young age.  They have a sense of loss and missing identity. Never being able to see the face of their mother. Always looking and imagining what that face looks like and how their mother would of acted.  Then, having to deal with other women being put into that maternal role of a mother figure for them.

 

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The Absence of a Mother

Jamaica Kincaid writes in an excerpt called, “Xuela,” “No love: I could live in a place like this.  I knew this atmosphere all too well.  Love would have defeated me.  In an atmostphere of no love I could live well; in this atmosphere of no love I could make a life for myself” (1053).

Readers are told from the beginning that Xuela’s mother dies in childbirth.  The woman that her father leaves her with, is just a woman that washes his clothes.  This maid does not treat Xuela like her own children; she does not love Xuela and Xuela does not love her.  Xuela is sent to school, where she receives a difficult education.  When her father comes to pick her up from school, his new wife not only hates Xuela, but even tries to kill her.  Clearly, Xuela has grown up in an environment where no love present.

In the video clip below, Kincaid describes how she likes to pretend that she “is all alone in the world” and “bereft of love,” but makes her way through in the end.  This is clearly seen in “Xuela” because as mentioned before no one loves her.

She also goes on to say that hatred is a form of love and when you hate someone it is bending toward love.  This statement can be related back to Xuela because she did not love any of the “motherly” figures in her life, but she says “in an atmosphere of no love I could live well.”  This hatred in a way bends toward love because it led her to find out who she was as a female and furthermore, was able to allow her to express herself emotionally and sexually.

By the end of the story, Xuela may have had a difficult life with no motherly love, but she has traveled this self-discovering journey.  She has accepted her life and claimed her emotional and sexual identity.  Without a mother as a role model and a father who has a little role in her life, Xuela has found an environment that she enjoys.  She is accepting of nature and seems to become one with the atmosphere around her.

At the end of “Xuela,” we see that Kincaid has written about sexual pleasure.  I enjoyed the quote above because I thought it expressed Kincaid’s thoughts well.  To me, it seems as if Kincaid is saying that she cannot believe that the U.S. is trying to free all these other foreign people, when women at home are not free to express themselves sexually.  When Kincaid includes masturbation in “Xuela” it seems as if she is trying to make a statement.  She can write about whatever she wants to write about.  And, when she writes about what she truly believes, then that is when she is free.

Going back to the quote: “in this atmosphere of no love I could make a life for myself,” I can see where Kincaid’s life has paralleled with this statement.  Kincaid may receive harsh comments from critics on what she writes about, but in her difficult atmosphere, she can make a life for herself that she enjoys and accepts.