Arms Akimbo: Africana Women in Contemporary Literature

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

13
Meditations on Her/Story
Maryse Conde's I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem and the Slave Narrative Tradition

PAULA C. BARNES

Mary Helen Washington titles her introduction to Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women, 1860-1960, "Meditations on History: The Slave Woman's Voice." Through alluding to William Styron's (in) famous line, "meditation on history," Washington seeks to bring to the forefront the voices of slave women who had been "rendered invisible" not only in Douglass 1845 Narrative but also the slave narratives in general, as women's narratives account for only twelve percent of that tradition (7). While none of the female narratives achieved prominence in their time, the recent burgeoning interest in slave narratives has led to their rediscovery and examination. Toni Morrison, in discussing her impetus for writing Beloved, noted the "deliberate omissions," that is, silences in these works ( Christian329). Apparently she was not the only writer to note such, for since 1979, there have been a number of novels for which slavery is the central focus, the majority of these written by women. Deborah McDowell, in answer to the question, "[W]hy the compulsion to repeat the story of slavery in the contemporary African-American novel?" suggests that Black female writers are "re-presenting" the female experience in slavery ( McDowell and Rampersad146). Women novelists, rendering the female slave experience visible and voiced, are revising the male canonized view; they are creating meditations on her/story.

In 1992, added to the African American novels addressing the female issue of slavery-- Octavia Butler Kindred ( 1979), Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose ( 1986), Toni Morrison Beloved ( 1987), and J. California Cooper's Family ( 1991)--was the English translation of Maryse Conde Moi, Tituba, Sorciere . . . Noire de Salem, I, Tituba, Black

-193-

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