Arms Akimbo: Africana Women in Contemporary Literature

By Janice Lee Liddell; Yakini Belinda Kemp | Go to book overview

5
When Difference Is Not the Dilemma
The Black Woman Couple in African American Women's Fiction

YAKINI B. KEMP

"Most Black lesbians were closeted, correctly recognizing the Black community's lack of interest in our position, as well as the many more immediate threats to our survival as Black people in a racist society. It was hard enough to be Black, to be Black and female, to be Black, female and gay" ( Lorde 224). Audre Lorde's words summarize the emotional and social implications of being an African American lesbian in her chronicle of the late 1950s in New York's Greenwich Village society. While specifically recounting the isolated position of the African American woman in the predominantly white "gay-girl" community, Lorde's maxim holds true for the fictional portraits of African American women- loving women of the later three decades as well. Compassionate, realistic, and sometimes brutal portraits of African American lesbian relationships have been written by acclaimed writers Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor , and Ntozake Shange in The Color Purple, The Women of Brewster Place, and Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo, respectively. These writers and other successful African American women writers have been influential in forcing the U.S. literary establishment to take note of African American women's perceptions of life, love, and society. Yet novels and short story collections by African American women with central woman-loving woman plots are still primarily published by women's and alternative presses ( Smith 239).1

Lorde 1982 "biomythography," Zami, presents a profoundly poetic, existential, and political account of coming of age as an African American and as a lesbian. One of the greatest strengths of Zami is Lorde's self- critical perspective. While illustrating the protagonist's development (a

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