Mother Imagery in the Novels of Afro-Caribbean Women

By Simone A. James Alexander | Go to book overview

4

"An/Other Way of
Knowing Things"
Ancestral Line(age), Revalidating
Our Ancestral Inheritances

Read and write I don't know. Other things I know.

—Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

We are very practical people, very down-to-earth, even shrewd people.
But within that practicality we also accepted what I suppose could be
called superstition and magic, which is
another way of knowing
things. But to blend these two worlds together at the same time was
enhancing, not limiting. And some of those
things were “discredited
knowledge” that Black people had; discredited only because Black people
were discredited therefore what they knew was “discredited.”

—Toni Morrison, “Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation”
(emphasis added)

The first quote was uttered by Jean Rhys's protagonist and ancestress, Christophine, in response to Edward Rochester's suggestion that she write Bertha (Antoinette) Mason Rochester, his wife, and Christophine's surrogate daughter. The “other things” that Jean Rhys's black protagonist, Christophine, brags about knowing, on one hand, assert her sense of self, and on the other hand, speak of her unwavering acceptance of the supernatural world, a world of magic, a world discredited by white folks and embraced by blacks. Toni Morrison questions the “validity or vulnerability of a certain set of assumptions conventionally accepted among literary historians and critics and circulated as `knowledge.' ” This accepted knowledge in Morrison's observation purports its exclusivity, thus laying claim that “traditional, canonical American literature is free of, uninformed and unshaped by the four-hundred-year-old presence of, first, Africans and then African-Americans and [diasporan

-136-

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