cover image In Search of a Beautiful Freedom: New and Selected Essays

In Search of a Beautiful Freedom: New and Selected Essays

Farah Jasmine Griffin. Norton, $20 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-35577-2

These powerful essays by Griffin (Read Until You Understand), a professor of African American studies at Columbia University, contemplate the culture and politics of Black feminism. She muses on music, literature, and history, suggesting in “When Malindy Sings” that Black women are often called on to sing at events promoting national unity because white people want them to play the role of “mammy,” who “heals and nurtures” the national family “but has no rights or privileges within it.” Pieces on Black women writers contemplate such famous figures as Zora Neale Hurston—whose controversial opposition to Brown v. Board of Education receives a subtle appraisal—as well as such lesser-known literary lights as Ellen Watkins Harper, who published novels about Reconstruction as early as 1869. Elsewhere, Griffin examines how Black women’s literature has pushed back against white supremacist beauty standards and provides a thoughtful critique of how Black nationalists, such as Malcolm X, have sought to exalt and protect Black women’s bodies while simultaneously subjecting them to patriarchal paternalization. Griffin is consistently incisive and her arguments deeply nuanced. This serves as a testament to the lucidity of Griffin’s stimulating oeuvre. (Mar.)