Culture-bearing women : the black women renaissance and cultural nationalism
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The idea for this book grew out of my ongoing fascination with cultures of the Black Atlantic and my observation of two apparently parallel phenomena taking place at the end of the 20th century: the Black Women’s Renaissance (BWR) of the United States and the “literary blossoming” (1989 anthology Her True-True Name) of Caribbean female fiction. The BWR began in the 1970s and continued into the 1980s, while the Caribbean blossoming reached its height in the 1980s. As the Caribbean critic Selwyn R. Cudjoe has observed, that rise of diasporic African and postcolonial women’s writing should not be viewed in isolation. The flowering of talent among Caribbean women writers was “a part of a much larger expression of women’s realities that [was] taking place in the postcolonial and civil rights era in the United States” (Caribbean Women Writers 5-6). In other words, these two literary movements came to fruition in the aftermath of the civil rights and feminist struggles of black people in the US and across the entire postcolonial world.1 Admittedly, “Caribbean female fiction” is a very broad term describing authors of different races: Creole women (like Jean Rhys) and mixed-race women (like Michelle Cliff); women writing in different languages (like the very famous francophone Maryse Condé); and women domiciled in different countries, such as France (Condé), the UK (Grace Nichols), Canada (Marlene NourbeSe Philip) or the United States. My study will address Anglophone African Caribbean writers living in the US, such as Paule Marshall and Audre Lorde, who were born into the families of Caribbean immigrants and have been integrated into the African American literary tradition, as well as immigrant writers, such as Jamaica Kincaid or Michelle Cliff, who retained their interest in their postcolonial Caribbean motherlands. Due to their residence in the US, these African Caribbean writers were participants in the same black literary culture as African American women writers, and their writing represented a conver- gence of diverse literary traditions. During the BWR, these African Caribbean writers built “inter-American bridges” that helped to “make sense of a common fragmented history” (Coser, Bridging the Americas 4) of black peoples in the Americas.
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