Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman: Voice & the Embodiment of a Costly Performance

Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant, Author . Temple Univ. $23.95 (183p) ISBN 978-1-59213-668-1

Sociologist Beauboeuf-Lafontant explores the “sociocultural lore” invoked in imaging the strong black woman. Bypassing familiar literary recreations of the oversacrificial Mammy and the oversexed Jezebel, she attends to the “growing autobiographical and clinical literature by Black women experiencing compulsive overeating and depression.” She foregrounds the intersection of race and gender with fresh and thought-provoking insight as she challenges “the racialization of depression as a white illness” and of eating problems as exclusive to the privileged. She interviews 58 black women ranging in age from 19 to 67 about “what strength means to them.” While many of her subjects reveal the involvement of familial communities in setting “the standards of stoicism, care, and selflessness that Black women encounter from girlhood through adulthood, at home and at work, among intimates and strangers,” one-third were “strength-critical women,” proponents of “self-care rather than self-neglect.” This book may be too academic in tone to appeal to the popular reader, but one hopes her message will trickle out. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/15/2009
Release date: 07/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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