Shaping Memories: Reflections of African American Women Writers



Shaping Memories: Reflections of African American Women Writers

This edition

"Shaping Memories: Reflections of African American Women Writers." Ed. Joanne Veal Gabbin. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2009. 245 pp.

Table of contents

● Joanne Veal Gabbin / Introduction

Women in Community:
● Nikki Giovanni / A Distant Star Called Possibility: Wintergreen
● Carmen R. Gillespie / Wintergreen and Alaga Syrup: A Writer's Reflections on Memory, Writing, and Place
● Paule Marshall / from "Shaping the World of My Art"
● Ethel Morgan Smith / Outside of Dreams

Negotiating the Academy:
● Sandra Y. Govan / The Case of the Reluctant Reader: She Who Reads Last . . .
● Kendra Hamilton / Parting the Blue Miasma
● Joanne Veal Gabbin / New Kid on the Block
● Elizabeth Brown-Guillory / Obstacles or Opportunities : The Wisdom to Know the Difference
● Marilyn Sanders Mobley / The Faith Walk of Writing: Connecting Head and Heart

Silence . . . A Dangerous Luxury:
● Linda Williamson Nelson / On My Return from Exile
● Janus Adams / Of History and Healing
● Camille Dungy / The Conscientious Outsider
● Opal Moore / The Mother's Board

Spirit House:
● Mari Evans / My Father's Passage
● Maryemma Graham / A Blessed Life
● Daryl Cumber Dance / A Birth and a Death, or Everything Important Happens on Monday
● Nikky Finney / Ambrosia

What Roots Us:
● Trudier Harris / Cotton Pickin' Authority
● Lovalerie King / The First Time I Saw Big Daddy Grinning
● Joyce Pettis / On Gardening, or A Love Supreme
● Hermine Pinson / A Very Good Year

A Sanctuary of Words:
● Karla F. C. Holloway / Bury the Thought
● Eugenia Collier / The Death of the Mother
● Sonia Sanchez / A Remembrance
● Toi Derricotte / The Night I Stopped Singing Like Billie Holiday
● Sandra Y. Govan / Afterword: Rites, Rituals, and Creative Ceremonies: A Social History of the Wintergreen Women Writers' Collective
● Opal Moore / Poetry Reading: A Coda

● Contributors

About the anthology

● Publisher's description: "Shaping Memories offers short essays by notable black women writers on pivotal moments that strongly influenced their careers. With contributions from such figures as novelist Paule Marshall, folklorist Daryl Cumber Dance, poets Mari Evans and Camille Dungy, essayist Ethel Morgan Smith, and scholar Maryemma Graham, the anthology provides a thorough overview of the formal concerns and thematic issues facing contemporary black women writers. Editor Joanne Veal Gabbin offers an introduction that places these writers in the context of American literature in general and African American literature in particular. Each essay includes a headnote summarizing the writer's career and aesthetic development. In their pieces these women negotiate educational institutions and societal restrictions and find their voices despite racism, sexism, and religious chauvinism. They offer strong testimony to the power of words to heal, transform, and renew" (MLAIB).
● This publisher's description is curiously inaccurate: there are notes on the contributors at the end of the volume, but no headnotes describing their careers at the start of each essay; Joanne Gabbin's introduction does not discuss the place of these contributors either in American literature in general or in African American literature in particular—instead, it reflects in a personal vein on the importance of writing and community in the lives of the contributors.

● The editor, Joanne Veal Gabbin, notes that the volume grows out of a gathering of women writers (literary and academic) who have been meeting at the Wintergreen Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains since 1987. Attendees at these gatherings varied somewhat from year to year, and Nikki Giovanni notes that they included a diverse range of participants: "Some of us were famous; some not. Some were students; some faculty. Some poets and writers; some critics. Some white; some black" (6). (Carmen R. Gillespie, however, describes the gatherings as "an annual writers' retreat for African American women living in the Virginia, Carolina, and D.C. regions" [8] and all the contributors to this volume are African American women. Other participants in the gatherings, apart from contributors to the present volume, include Val Gray Ward and Pinkie Gordon Lane (9).

● The volume is a collection of personal essays, most of them produced for the occasion, rather than an anthology culled from previously published works. (The exceptions to this are the pieces by Mari Evans from 1970, Paule Marshall from 1973, Sonia Sanchez from 1995, and Trudier Harris from 2003.) The 25 essayists look back over the formative role of writing in their negotiation of the challenging experiences of their childhoods, young adulthoods, and professional lives as African American women during "the decades that saw African Americans emerge from a storied invisibility through struggle and tumult to palpable freedom" (xv).

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