Writings on Black Women of the Diaspora: History, Language, and Identity

Article excerpt

Lean'tin L. Bracks. Crosscurrents in African American History, Vol I. (New York: Garland, 1998). xii, 139 pp., $39.00 cloth.

In her "Preface" to this study, Lean'tin Bracks describes her purpose as being "to describe a model which may provide for today's black woman a means to take control of her destiny by retrieving her Afrocentric legacy from the obscured past" (xi). This model, which she applies through discussions of The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself (1831), Toni Morrison's Beloved (1988), Alice Walker's The Color Purple (1982, and Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow (1984), is tripartite: "historical awareness, attention to linguistic pattern, and sensitivity to stereotypes in the dominant culture" (xi).

As the series title perhaps suggests, the most valuable part of Bracks's model is her focus on contextual African American and Afro-Caribbean history, which takes up nearly half of each chapter except that on Praisesong. Bracks offers useful insights on topics ranging from African cultural retentions in the Caribbean under slavery to the social ascendancy of the mulatto in the United States in the early twentieth century, with some particularly informative and sensitive discussion of the incidence and motivation of infanticide among slave mothers. Bracks's bibliography also lists a number of important historical and sociological texts and resources.

When it comes to the literary analysis of Bracks's four chosen narratives, however, the study can best be described as unexceptionable. …