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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The Generational Gap

ToniCade

Toni Cade Bambara was born in New York City, New York.  She is well known for her many works dealing with  the Black Power Movement and her role as an activist.  In her work, My Man Bovanne, Bambara explores the generational gap between the the main character, Miss Hazel, and her children.

“”Generational gap,” spits Elo, like I suggested castor oil and fricasse possum in the milk-shakes or somethin. “That’s a white concept for a white phenomenon.  There’s no generational gap among Black people. We are col-” (p. 556)

Miss Hazel’s children are taking part in organizing a political party involved with the black power movement.  They want their mother to head a council of the older folks. In getting their mother to form the council, Miss Hazel’s children seem to be forcing their mother to conform to their beliefs.  They criticize Miss Hazel for not giving black women the proper appearance.  What her children seem to be forgetting is that the point of the movement is to gain equal rights and to gain a mutual respect among people in general.  They lose respect for their mother’s individuality somewhere along the line.

Toni Cade Bambara advocated for this mutual respect and it transcended in her works and her teaching including this presentation about “The Wall of Respect.”

One thing that was important to Bambara that come across in her works was the importance of the older generation in the Black Power Movement.  In “My Man Bovanne,” Bambara writes, “Cause you gots to take care of the older folks.” “…Cause old folks is the nation.” (p. 558)

This view is symbolized by Bovanne, and older blind man from the neighborhood who “fixed things.”  He had been popular with the kids  when they were little, but now was forgotten by them.  This comments on the fact that many times the older generation is forgotten in the hustle and bustle of present issues, as Miss Hazel’s children do.  Also the fact that Bovanne is blind symbolizes the children’s blindness to the real issues, or their blindness to their mother’s own individuality.

 sanitation

People in general are blind to many things around them, black or white, old or young and this is what births injustices.


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The Blind (Wo) Man Sees All

Blind as a bat is a well known phrase universally. If the phrase is used toward someone it means that they can not see well and in some cases may have zero ability to use their sight. In  Toni Bambara‘s “My Man Bovanne” she introduces the reader to Bovanne, a blind handyman, with which Miss Hazel takes a liking to. In a quick reading of this short story it may seem as though Bovanne being blind is a minor detail but as the story unfolds and Bambara reveals the was Miss Hazel is treated by her children and the way her children are being “brain-washed” and “blinded” by popular beliefs of Black Power, it is evident that the handyman’s blindness is a metaphor. 

” He ain’t my man mind you, just a nice ole gent from the block that we all know cause he fixes things and the kids like him. Or used to fore Black Power got hold their minds and mess em around till they can’t be civil to ole folks” (555).

“I don’t answer cause I’ll cry. Terrible thing when your children talk to you like that. Pullin me out the party and hustlin me into some stranger’s kitchen in the back of a bar just like the damn police. And ain’t like I’m old old. I can still wear me some sleeveless dresses without the meat hanging off my arm. And I keep up with some thangs through my kids. Who ain’t kids no more. To hear them tell it. So I don’t say nuthin”(556).

Through these passages within the story and a few others, Bambara creates the statement that her children are the blind ones. They think they are fixing her and making things better but instead they are degrading her and turning their backs on the elders who have much to teach them. They are blind to the fact that their mother is a woman and she can dance if she wants with whomever she pleases and them telling her she looks foolish or “Like a bitch in heat” (556) is breaking her not fixing her in anyway.

This short story sends a message of rights and wrongs and the misguided directions off those who think they know the way. There is no set way to get the right results for anything, there is only the hope of trying and Bambara may be applying this in motherhood and power and status within this story.