The Things That Fly in the Night: Female Vampires in Literature of the Circum-Caribbean and African Diaspora

By Giselle Liza Anatol | Go to book overview

Conclusions

Our salvation lies in our capacity to create new and more inclusive
mythologies, to move beyond the homeland myths of origin
.

—PATRICIA MOHAMMED

As I began writing these concluding remarks, I had the opportunity to reread “The Goophered Grapevine,” a short story by U.S. African American writer Charles Chesnutt, first published in the collection The Conjure Woman in 1899. The character of Aunt Peggy is described as a woman who “rides folks” at night: a detail I did not recall when I first read the narrative in my undergraduate American Literature survey course. Besides being fascinating to me now as yet another example of the soucouyant figure in African Americas cultures, I am struck by the fact that rather than the conventional evil woman who is ostracized by her neighbors, Peggy is portrayed by Chesnutt as a respected member of her community. As a renowned conjure woman, she is consulted by the racist White slave owner of the story as well as the people of African descent who live on nearby plantations. Her freewoman’s status seems as integrally related to her social status as her uncanny abilities; and her capacity to fly through the night works easily as a metaphor to reinforce the impression of her physical and legal freedoms—her participation in the local economy as an active, voluntarily mobile subject rather than a piece of property. Thus, nearly a century before novels like Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, Butler’s Fledgling, and Oyeyemi’s White Is for Witching, readers get an inkling of the potential of a Black woman to take control of her life and fate and not be condemned for that act; we see an early example of what Katherine McKittrick describes as a site of both “place and placelessness in tension,” held there by both “imagination and materiality” (106, emphasis added).

-253-

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