Native Speakers: Ella Deloria, Zora Neale Hurston, Jovita Gonzaalez, and the Poetics of Culture

By María Eugenia Cotera | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

“De nigger woman is de mule uh de world”
Storytelling and the Black Feminist Tradition

Woman should not be compelled to look to sexual love as the one sensation
capable of giving tone and relish, movement and vim to the life she leads.
Her horizon is extended.

ANA JULIA COOPER, THE WOMAN’S ERA

We help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest hori-
zons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock
experiences of our daily lives.

AUDRE LORDE, “POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY,” SISTER OUTSIDER

In 1936, on the eve of Zora Neale Hurston’s departure to the Caribbean for what would be her last major ethnographic expedition, she wrote a letter to an Alabama librarian, William Stanley Hoole. In her letter, Hurston laid out the basic plot for a book that she had been kicking around for some time. It would be her follow-up novel to Jonah’s Gourd Vine, and in it she would tell the story of a brown woman:

Who was from childhood hungry for life and the earth, but because she
had beautiful hair was always being skotched upon a flag-pole by the men
who loved her and forced to sit there. At forty she got her chance at mud.
Mud, lush and fecund with a buck Negro called Tea Cake. He took her
down into the Everglades where people worked and sweated and loved and
died violently, where no such thing as flag-poles for women existed. Since
I narrate mostly in dialogue, I can give you no feeling in these few lines of
the life of this brown woman with her plentiful hair. But this is the barest
statement of the story.1

-171-

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Native Speakers: Ella Deloria, Zora Neale Hurston, Jovita Gonzaalez, and the Poetics of Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Para Juan Javier v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Native Speakers xiii
  • Introduction - Writing in the Margins of the Twentieth Century 1
  • Part One - Ethnographic Meaning Making and the Politics of Differencee 23
  • Chapter 1 - Standing on the Middle Ground 41
  • Chapter 2 - "Lyin'' Up a Nation" 71
  • Chapter 3 - A Romance of the Border 103
  • Part Two - Re-Writing Culture 133
  • Chapter 4 - "All My Relatives Are Noble" 145
  • Chapter 5 171
  • Chapter 6 - Feminism on the Border 199
  • Epilogue - "What''s Love Got to Do with It?" toward a Passionate Praxis 225
  • Notes 233
  • Bibliography 259
  • Index 275
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